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Hanging With the Giants: It’s Blue Whale Season Once Again in San Diego!

Hanging With the Giants: It’s Blue Whale Season Once Again in San Diego!

Blue whale off the Channel Islands (Shulman at English Wikipedia/Wikimedia Commons)

We’re now in prime-time season for seeing the world’s biggest creature cavorting in our very own waters—one of the most astonishing natural spectacles the San Diego coast (which isn’t lacking for them) serves up!

Blue whales are once again traveling and feeding a few miles offshore, and a whale-watching cruise gives you a sporting chance of seeing these leviathans-among-leviathans doing their stuff in the ocean blue. Such an outing makes quite the unforgettable summer’s day during your Downtown San Diego getaway at the Sofia Hotel, needless to say…

Introducing the Blue Whale

The blue whale: It’s a simple name, but given the legendary beast it describes it carries plenty of weight (so to speak). The cetacean in question may grow past 100 feet in length and weigh on the order of 200 tons (think a whole elephant herd’s worth): superlative statistics almost impossible to wrap your head around, and putting even the heftiest dinosaurs to shame. (Another superlative? The blue whale’s heart: at several hundred pounds, the biggest in the animal kingdom.)

Blue whales belong to the family of baleen whales known as the rorquals. They’re filter-feeders, their favored menu item being the tiny crustaceans called krill.

Given its great size, you might assume the blue whale’s a sluggish animal—but quite the contrary: Like the other rorquals, it’s a swift swimmer when it wants to be, attaining speeds of at least 30 miles per hour.

California’s Blue Whales

The blues plying our San Diego waters from roughly mid-June through September belong to the Northeast Pacific stock that ranges between Alaska’s Aleutian Islands and Costa Rica. At perhaps 2,500 to 3,000 individuals strong, this is the largest known population of blue whales in the world, and observations off the California coast have dramatically increased in recent years.

That’s encouraging, given the blue whale’s modern history: Excessive whaling all across the World Ocean caused its numbers to plunge precariously in the 19th and 20th centuries. The largest historic population, the Antarctic, which once numbered perhaps 200,000 to 300,000, dwindled to less than 400 whales by the early 1970s.

The hunting of blue whales has been banned since the late 1960s, and numbers are on the rise in most areas (including the Antarctic, where perhaps 2,000 blue whales now roam)—but it’ll be a drawn-out recovery, for sure, given the slow growth rates of the species.

Watching Blue Whales Off the San Diego Coast

In winter and spring, you can famously often spot migrating gray whales from promontories along the San Diego County coast, but the best viewing opportunities for blue whales—which tend to forage several miles out to sea—come by boat. Multiple companies offer whale-watching cruises aimed at blues during the summer; you can check out a list here at the San Diego Tourism Authority’s website.

On such a cruise, you may see other marine life as well, including finback whales (a rorqual cousin of the blue and the second-largest cetacean in the world), humpbacks, dolphins, and California sea lions, not to mention all manner of seabirds.

Pretty remarkable to think you can spot the spouts and flukes of the biggest animal that’s ever lived on a day’s outing from the historic Sofia Hotel: a side of world-class wildlife viewing and high-seas adventure to go along with the luxury hospitality we offer here in Downtown San Diego. Come join us for blue-whale season this summer!