Favorite Travel Quotes

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts."
-- Mark Twain
Innocents Abroad

"Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey." -- Fitzhugh Mullan

"A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving." -- Lao Tzu

Gray Whales and Dolphin Super Pods

Dolphin super pod

Dolphin super pod


©Bert Gildart: “It’s a super pod,” said the captain of the whale watch boat, The Christopher. “And it’s one of the largest I’ve ever seen.” Then we were engulfed, surrounded by common dolphins, leaping into the air, singly, in groups–as though choreographed.

We were on a side trip to Los Angeles to visit Janie’s brother and his wife. On Friday, we had alerted neighbors of our intended excursion and left our Airstream in Borrego Springs. Then we’d made the three-hour drive to L.A. Knowing how much we enjoyed all things in nature, Greg and Susan suggested we make the short drive to Long Beach and join Harbor Breeze Whale Watch Cruises.


Timing was perfect as gray whales were now migrating south from the Bering Sea to Baja to give birth to young. This was not our first venture watching whales, and one year ago we had joined a group in Nova Scotia to see pilot whales. Such sightings are good for the soul, and when they are complemented by other sightings from the sea, the experience ranks high in the pantheon of experiences from the world of natural history.

Gulls watching dolphin superpod

Gulls seemed to be watching too


We departed from a berth adjacent to the Long Beach Aquarium, and soon were passing the Queen Mary, now on the National Register of Historic Places and permanently moored here, where it serves as a museum ship and hotel.

whale watchers silent with anticipation

Whale watchers silent with anticipation


Soon, we entered open water of the Pacific Ocean, and the captain, speaking over a loud speaker, told us that people on his cruises had seen gray whales the past three days. “Keep your eyes open; they could be anywhere.”


Moments later, Staci, a young lady hired as a naturalist with the Long Beach Aquarium, began making the rounds, explaining a little about the biology of Gray whales. She said that whales were essentially grouped according to whether or not they had teeth. She said that Gray whales were baleen whales, and used the baleen to filter out food from mud.

Ocean was thick with dolphins

Ocean was thick with dolphins


But of interest to this group was how to see the species, for we were now several miles into open water and the pilot was also interjecting his thoughts. “We’re closing in on Catalina Island and here’s where we saw several gray whales.”

Then, almost on cue Staci called out, “There she blows.”

Whale Watching Adventure also includes dolphins

Dolphin leaping


The whale was about half a mile away, and the pilot turned the ship in the direction of the whale. “They blow about every 10 minutes,” said Staci, “and if we time it right-and if luck is good-we’ll get a better look.”


The pilot powered the boat forward slowly, and the passengers grew quiet. And that’s when the dolphins moved our direction. Then, for about five minutes we were engulfed by a stream of thousands of common dolphins-literally thousands. Again the captain came back on, saying that he had seldom seen such a huge pod. “Just doesn’t happen all that often,” he said. “This may be the largest I’ve ever seen. This is a super, super pod. Maybe 3,000.”

Moments later, the dolphins were gone, and the pilot turned his attention back to the gray whale. We saw several “blows” in this distance, but nothing particularly close-and then, just about the time the pilot said we had to return to shore, a gray whale rose from the water perhaps 50 yards away. “Well,” said the pilot, “this is too good an opportunity. We’ll stay a little longer.”

Gray Whale fluke

Gray whale fluke


The whale blew again, providing me with one quick photographic opportunity, which I managed just as the leviathan dove again. But more than anything, the whale-and dolphins-satisfied a closeness with nature, something appreciated by every single person in this extremely diverse group of whale-watching patrons.

One Response to “Gray Whales and Dolphin Super Pods”

  1. Kimmy Says:

    Well said Bert! I long for that closeness with nature too and doing things like this just frees my soul. Thank you for the beautiful look into your world.