Whale meets El Niño, and the result was spectacular

- File this under WOW!

There is probably nothing more exciting than going on a whale-watching cruise and actually seeing a whale up close, right? How about seeing it 50 or more times breaching, spouting, fin lobbing?

That’s what one happy humpback did for a group on a cruise out of San Pedro. Among those on the group were myself and photographer Gary Brainard.

It was nothing short of spectacular. Wait, let me say that louder… SPECTACULAR! 



A whale, maybe 35 tons or so, put on a heck of a show splashing around in the warmer-than-normal Pacific. 

"A few years ago we’d be lucky if we saw a humpback whale once or twice a year as it moving from Alaska down to Mexico but we’ve seen humpback whales year-round now," said Captain Dan Salas, CEO of Harbor Breeze Cruises.

To Salas, the reason is El Niño.

The warm water phenomenon sent rain north of Southern California, but has warmed up ocean water to the point to make our area feel a little Hawaii-like.

Salas says the water is probably 9 degrees above normal.

For James Stewart, the humpback whale show was jaw-dropping.

"This is the first time I’ve seen a humpback jump this month for us."

Stewart is an educator for the Aquarium of the Pacific. He thinks El Niño has changed the complexion of our big blue Pacific.

For example, says Stewart, "I saw a Bryde’s Whale in our local waters here. Normally our water is too cold for that. The Bryde's whale is a tropical whale so, you wouldn’t normally see them in our California waters which are more temperate."

Seeing them definitely means our water is warmer than normal.

"It's well above what we’d expect to bring a tropical whale this far north," the captain said.

Ecstatic, he added, "This is absolutely the best show we’ve seen on a humpback whale ever. This is the best trip in the history of our company."

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