Some of the biggest animals ever to roam the earth have returned to the area in what is becoming an annual visit to the waters in the South Bay and off the Palos Verdes Peninsula.
The blue whales, which measure about 85 feet long and weigh more than 100 tons, have been spotted in local waters since July 15, according to marine biologist Alisa Schulman-Janiger with the Los Angeles chapter of the American Cetacean Society.
"The blue whales are definitely back," Schulman-Janiger said. "We are getting a lot of them, and one of the best places in the world to see them is off of California."
The world's largest whales have traveled to the waters off of Southern California from Mexico to look for large amounts of krill—their one and only food source—and can eat up to four tons of it per day, Schulman-Janiger said.
It is also that food source that determines how long the blue whales, which only number between 10,000 and 13,000 worldwide, will stick around in the area.
"As long as the krill stay plentiful, that is exactly what is keeping them here," said Schulman-Janiger, adding that they have stayed as late as October in previous years. "You never do know ... They can move drastically from one day to the next."
For those looking to catch a glimpse of the behemoth creatures, Schulman-Janiger said that whale watching from land, especially along the Palos Verdes Peninsula, will yield the most amount of sightings. The Point Vicente Interpretive Center, which she called an especially good vantage point, reported seeing 10 to 12 blue whales in one day last week.
From land, blue whales can easily be spotted by looking for the large, 25-foot spouts of air they release when they come up to the surface. Blue whales, which many times are seen swimming in pairs, also have a rounded head and are steel gray in color. Schulman-Janiger said that unlike many whales, blue whales normally will not breach, or leap out of the water.
For an up close and personal look at the blue whales though, Schulman-Janiger said that whale watching from a boat is a truly unique experience.
"To actually see them close and in person, nothing else is like it," she said. "It is the biggest creature that has ever lived on the planet and was predicted to go extinct."
Caryn Stanton, who runs whale watching excursions on the out of Redondo Beach's King Harbor, said that she plans to start blue-whale watching trips this Saturday and Sunday, but has been holding back tours in recent weeks until the whales came within range of the boat.
"They were a little bit out of our range in the past couple of weeks and that is why we were reluctant to start," she said. "We were trying to be conservative and fair."
With the excitement surrounding the return of the blue whales, Stanton said she couldn't wait any longer. She said this weekend's tours hope to spot whales off of Point Vicente—or even Manhattan Beach, where they were spotted last week.
Whether by land or by sea, Schulman-Janiger said that getting a look at the blue whales while they are in the area is a must.
"It is the experience of a lifetime," she said. "You would think you would have to go to some place exotic to get to see these guys, and they are right in our own backyard."
Blue Whales by Boat
- Voyager Excursions | King Harbor, Redondo Beach
- Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m.
- Cruises last between 2 - 2.5 hours
- Cost: $25 Adults, $15 Children, $20 Seniors & Military
Blue Whales by Land
- Point Vicente Interpretive Center
- 31501 Palos Verdes Drive W., Rancho Palos Verdes
- Museum Hours: Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
- Park grounds open 10 a.m. until dusk