Whales, Porpoises, Sea Lions and Otters
Wow, what a day. We forget how cool Santa Cruz is, part happily retro and part university town, and perched on one shore of amazing Monterey Bay. This year there are warmer currents in December, which means upwelling, which means unexpected blooms of anchovies, which means sea lions, dolphins and whales.
First came the once-a-week ukelele gathering at The Crow's Nest on the beach -- at least 100 people with ukeleles of every kind, playing Crosby Stills and Nash songs while standing on the sand, along with a string bass and bongo drummers. They set up music stands for the people who couldn't figure out the three chords in each song. The sound all those voices and mellow string instruments make, right there on the beach, was as sweet as sweet gets.
We say: "I could live here!" followed immediately by "Could I live here?" followed right afterwards by "Maybe not..." and then "...but maybe?"
The Stagnaro Company runs these whale watching boats. The Great BZ and CZ, Plot and Duck got on the boat at 11:45. It took close to half an hour to motor out to the Soquel Trench and Monterey Canyon, and then we saw the swarms of birds, which meant sea lions and the sea lions meant whales. Sure enough.
Pods of perhaps 200? 500? sea lions jump in and out of the water.
You watch them and then you see the spout and then the enormous fin of a humpback whale as it emerges, usually with a buddy to the side. What has happened is the whales have dived down up to 300 feet deep, gathered up an enormous mouthful of water, then surfaced with their mouths open. Fish that they haven't swallowed fall right out of their mouths and the sea lions and dolphins scavenge them. This is quite a sight to see.
From the perspective of the anchovy, maybe not so much. The best they can hope for is to escape the whale into the mouth of a sea lion or dolphin.
The dolphins themselves are up to fourteen feet long, graceful as a symphony, but no more graceful in the water than the sea lions. If you look closely in the foreground below, underwater, you can see the green body of a swimming dolphin.
Wow. Shmalifornia ten days before Christmas. All this and ukeleles too.