It was a normal foggy morning for the five biologists stationed on the Farallon Islands last Saturday, until they looked out into the ocean to see nothing but blue whales. It was the largest concentration of marine mammals documented off the Northern California coast in 20 years.
In just an hour, the biologists counted 47 whales off the coast of the small island sitting 25 miles west of San Francisco, noting that the large number is a “possible record,” according NOAA Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary Media and Outreach Specialist Mary Jane Schramm. The whales came to feed on the nearby krill, tiny shrimp-like tiny crustaceans, which have seen a strong year due to the heavy winds of February bringing nutrient-rich water up to the surface early in the spring.
The visuals of the large group of whales was stunning, seeing spray from the mammals’ blowholes constantly coming out of the water. As the biologists counted the whales one-by-one, they came just short of the record set in November of 2000, when scientists saw 50 in one day.
The large cluster of whales was a beautiful sight, but also cause alarm for nearby boats cruising into the area to enter into the San Francisco Bay through the Golden Gate. The Coast Guard and NOAA immediately requested that large boats traveling in the area to reduce their speed in half to around 10 mph.
It was a historic day off the coast of the Farallon Islands, one that will certainly live in the memories of the biologists there to witness the whales. Who knows when an event like this will happen again?