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Captain Dave’s Whale Watching Report 07/07/05

As seen weekly in the Dana Point news/OC Register

July 7, 2005

What an awesome week for dolphins! Common dolphins were everywhere!
We had numerous megapods in our area this week. I would follow a mega-pod of 800 dolphins up the coast, come back out on our next trip and find a pod of over a thousand and follow them up the coast, then come back out of the harbor and find another pod of 500. Big pods were and still are everywhere!

We also found pods of offshore bottlenose and the ever-present coastal bottlenose. We had about 10 coastal bottlenose that hung around near where the old Aliso pier was for two of our afternoon Safari’s and the water was so calm we were right next to the rocks watching them play as people swam out to them and kayakers paddled nearby.

The red tide is still going on strong (see my column from two weeks ago) we went over to Doheny Beach one night when there was no moon and watched the bioluminescent waves breaking, even the sand glowed green as we walked on it or kicked it. Our three year old could not stop playing in this magical sand. As I said a few weeks ago, if you have not seen this yet go out to a beach where the red tide is on a dark moonless night and get blown away!

I want to tell you something I am very excited about. Our new hydrophone. Picture this — a thousand dolphins are swimming directly at you. You hear their splish-splashes as they near you. Your eyes wander from dolphin to dolphin unable to focus on one before they are underwater again and another appears your heart races, time stops, you want to tell somebody what you are seeing it is so surreal. Couldn’t get any better right? Wrong! You’re only experiencing half of what is going on. Imagine that same scenario with a hydrophone, (an underwater microphone), in the water. Let me describe what I heard this week through our new hydrophone. (Note: We have had a hydrophone for years, but nothing like this custom, super sensitive, expensive beauty, that filters out nearly all the engine and water noise.) We can actually use this hydrophone while we are following the dolphins, instead of having to stop the boat to listen to them. I feel like a whole new dimension has opened up to us, and our encounters with the dolphins are even richer and more intimate than before. Anyway, let me describe one such encounter we had this week. As the mega-pod approached us we heard a few distinct clicks that sounded like a Geiger- counter. Then as they got closer, they got louder, and faster, and stronger until it sounded like a million Geiger-counters and actually overpowered our speakers sounding almost like a jet engines noise as the multitudes of dolphin reached us. Then as they passed us these very directional clicks, (which are actually sonar used by the dolphins to “see” underwater), stopped and the water suddenly got almost quiet except the whistles of the dolphins communicating to one another. These whistles which are less directional, high pitched and vary in length from short bursts to long bird like sounds faded away as the dolphins moved away from us. I can’t help wondering what it would be like to be a sardine and hear that army of sound steadily marching towards you.

You can hear a recent recording of this mega-pod passing us on our website dolphinsafari.com. It doesn’t come close to how it sounds in person, but it is interesting!

No one has seen any blue whales this week. Funny story: John Calambokidis one of the top blue whale researchers in the world called me on my cell phone last week at the exact moment that we were watching a blue whale surface, on the best day we’ve had for blue sightings so far this summer. He wanted to know if we were seeing any blue whales – good thing he didn’t call this week.

Well, that’s all there is till next week. May God bless you. Capt. Dave, over and out.

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