Saturday, January 8th, was our first Pacific Marine Exploration cruise on our Research Vessel, Sea Explorer, of 2019; and if it was a predictor of voyages to come, then 2019 should be a banner year. Under the darkening sky of that approaching rainstorm, we saw three different types of cetaceans. “Cetacea” is the order which includes all whales and dolphins. Exiting the harbor, we saw the blow of a Pacific Gray Whale, less than a mile from the harbor entrance. It was a sub-adult, about 30 feet long, paddling gently towards Baja. It allowed us alongside for a GREAT look, never broke stride, its body language calm and relaxed. Twice it showed us its flukes, and several times angled towards the Sea Explorer for a closer look.
The question of whether animals feel emotion has been argued for years, and while anyone with pets or who has spent a significant amount of time observing animals in the wild can testify to clear displays of fear, love, compassion, empathy and jealousy …. scientists have often been hesitant to take a stance on animal sentience. Yet there is a vast amount of research to back the ‘smile’ your dog greets you with when you walk in the door.
As we welcome winter along the Southern California coast, we also welcome extraordinarily low tides. Anyone who has spent time along our beaches is certain to notice that the water level of the ocean does not stay the same all day long. The percussion of waves lapping upon the shore is consistent, though water levels change as the day passes. Water rises for several hours and then recedes. This rise and fall of the ocean is known as the tide. A tidal tempo is at the heart of the concert of the sea.
For many people, spending the winter months in California sounds like a dream. This also applies to certain whale species. Despite our year-round mild climate, the ocean off our coast is generally quite cold due to currents moving southward from Alaska. The perfect combination of our chilly water, climate patterns, coastal upwelling, and plenty of California sun contributes to our having some of the most productive waters in the world.
As the summer progressed, an abundance of crimson tails and shells populated the shoreline. Exactly like a teenager’s room full of clothes cast aside that were not fit for the first day of school. That right folks, it’s fall here in Southern California. New school year. New school clothes. Even our local, California spiny lobsters (Panulirus interruptus) get ready for picture day in the fall. While we have been enjoying the surf and working on our tans these past few months, our native inhabitants just beneath the waves have been working on their shiny new shells too.
“Have you ever seen a forest without any birds, without any trees, without any bees? Have you ever seen a forest under the sea?” –Banana Slug Band
Even on our sunny days, our coastal, temperate waters may appear encircled by a forbidding, often steely grey sea, although there are those rare, magical calm days when its surrounding seas take on an altogether more inviting hue.
This year we celebrate the Ocean Institute’s Watershed Education Program’s 13th year! With grateful thanks to the generous support of Miocean and the Massen Greene Foundation, over 25,000 fifth graders, from communities throughout Southern California, have been inspired to empower themselves, their schools, and their communities to be responsible stewards of our environment.