July 18, 2010

Roses Are Red, Whales Are Blue

Good morning and greetings, capped oil well fans. Well, the weather, much like my love for skinny jeans, has turned here on the central coast, as the fog, chill and gloom have been temporarily replaced by clear, sunny skies. But the blue sky, warm breezes and clam chowder in a bread bowl are not the only things that have returned, and as an incredible number of blue whales came to party in Monterey Bay about two weeks ago. Combine that with the reaper fans who swam here to see Blue Oyster Cult at the Boardwalk on June 25, and the bay’s burnin’ for you.

In a story, or “In-A-Gadda-Vida” for you Iron Butterfly fans, written by Laith Agha for the Monterey Herald, July 7 was once of the most extraordinary whale watching days ever here on Monterey Bay. Nancy Black, a marine biologist and owner of the Monterey Bay Whale Watch, says this is the first time since 2003 that blue whales or Dodger fans had been seen in any sizable numbers in the Monterey Bay.

At the time, including humpback whales and Miami Dolphins, 140 baleen whales were feeding in local waters. They flocked to Monterey’s waters to visit the acquarium and to feed on the abundance of krill, a favorite food of baleen whales. Instead of teeth, blue and humpback whales trap their food with baleen, a flexible bone structure that looks like a gigantic comb and acts as a filtering system that sieves small animals from ocean water, which is the same process I used to filter thru the sweet and sour shrimp at the Mandarin Garden’s all-you-can-eat buffet.

Because of the ecotourism, Northern Pacific blue whales typically breed and vacation 400 miles west of Costa Rica, then head north and toward the coast to feed. Though they often are spotted around the central coast from July to October, they have been spending the past few feeding seasons fattening up near Santa Barbara and farther south. This is because that is where the most krill has been and many are Laker fans, says local blue whale expert Tony Lorenz.

The prevalence of krill in local waters depends largely on oceanic upwelling, a wind-driven process that causes nutrient-rich water from the ocean depths to move toward the surface. So it’s not just the Kareem that rises to the top. Conditions have not been right in recent years to support large krill populations in the waters around Monterey, Lorenz says. Because blue whales primarily feed on krill and the fact that the Warriors only have made the playoff once over the last 16 years, they have not come around much.

At 75 to 100 feet long and upward of 100 tons, blue whales are the largest animals on Earth. They are larger than any dinosaur or anyone in Yao Ming’s family. To satisfy their appetites, they eat 4 tons of krill and a sandwich each day. There are about 10 million krill and a kosher pickle in each ton. Krill and avocado salad are the only things blue whales eat. The tiny shrimp-like creatures cluster together and whales ingest hundreds of thousand of them on at a time along with cocktail sauce and a few Ritz crackers.

Because of unregulated whaling in the first half of the 20th century, the blue whale was nearly hunted to extinction. That’s why I’m not crazy about harpoons or anyone mentioning my blubber. About 360,000 were killed from 1900 to 1966, when the International Whaling Commission banned hunting of blue whales. The global blue whale population is estimated at 10,000, with about 2,200 believed to live in the Pacific Ocean off North America or in Capitola.

Because of their size and oil inside them, blue whales were one of the most hunted whales for centuries. By the early 1900s they were almost extinct and rebuilding the species or a franchise is not easy, just ask Golden State Warriors fans.

The whales seem to be using long range communication or Facebook, as they can hear each other from a couple miles away to try and get the word out about the krill a minute. When blue whales have shown up in the past, they have been known to stay through summer and fall, then some head south as late as Christmas while the Jewish whales stayed thru Hanukah.

But how long they stay this time will depend on the food supply. “They could be here for a few days or a few months,” Black says. “We hope they’ll stay around here for a while.” Most likely they’ll stick around until, in the words of BB King. “the krill is gone.”

Let’s move onto this week’s photo entry. It was exactly three years ago today that I was heading down to the Boardwalk the see the fabulous Eddie Money in action. As I walked along West Cliff Drive, I spotted a pelican feeding frenzy in progress and hustled back to my car, grabbed my camera and proceeded to take more shots than Cav’s owner Dan Gilbert did at LeBron James after he announced he was joining Dywane Wade in South Beach.

Some kind of bait fish was running in the bay as the pelicans were dive bombing into the water like baseball fans going after a Derek Jeter home run ball at Yankee Stadium. It was a warm, beautiful night as I joined the pelicans to soak in the Money Man’s medly, including my personal favorite, “Wanna be a rocker, wanna be a rocker, wanna be a rock n’ roll star.” Eddie, who’s been performing here for years, was in classic form that evening. In his words, “I remember coming here in the 70′s when I was snorting South American countries.” All his greatest hits and a geography lesson.

I took the last couple of shots of the gulls and the coastline after the show. Just a classic combo of nature and rock, as there was a whole lot of shakin’ going on along the edge of the continent. The Money Man hits the Boardwalk this summer on July 30, with two shows at 6:30 and 8:30. And the best part is, the sand, sea, and sounds are free. As they say at Fort Knox, rich or poor, it’s nice to have Eddie Money.

And here’s the late night. “Rush Limbaugh had an apartment here in New York City. He sold the apartment for $11.5 million. That is $2.5 million for the apartment and $9 million for what they found in the medicine cabinet. But it was a huge apartment — 4,000 square feet of space. No, wait a minute, that’s Rush. Sold it for $11.5 million. It has a very narrow view. It overlooks the flaws of the Republican Party.” –David Letterman

“Let me say congratulations to Spain. They won the World Cup yesterday. Spanish people all over the world celebrated in the streets, except of course, in Arizona.” –Jay Leno “South Korea has new robots along its border with North Korea that can detect and kill intruders. Meanwhile they’re installing robots along the U.S. border that say ‘Hola.’” –Jimmy Fallon BP is putting a new cap on the leaking oil well. It could capture up to 90 percent of the disgusting filth that’s spewing from there. And if it works, they’re going to try the same thing on Mel Gibson.” –Craig Ferguson

“A lot of people continue to be very upset by the fact that we can’t get Osama bin Laden. Osama bin Laden? We can’t even get Roman Polanski. Yankees owner George Steinbrenner passed away. He was a tough guy. Within five minutes in heaven, he fired God and told Jesus to lose the beard.” –Jay Leno “If you know anything about the big spy swap here in New York City, there were 10 spies and they were running around New York City stealing secrets. They arranged a big spy swap. It was very exciting. We sent them 10 spies, and they sent us four spies, plus a Cuban pitcher.” –David Letterman

So that’s it for this week’s entertainment. Last Wednesday, a gopher came out of a hole in my front yard and saw his shadow, which means at least six more weeks of saying, “what the hell are we doing in Afghanistan?” On a more positive note, congratulations go out to my cousin Gina, who’s softball pitching daughter Julie gave birth the same day to a 8 pound, 11 ounce boy. Reports are both mother and son Landon are doing well while Gina is warming up in the bullpen.

So enjoy the super selection of summer fruits and let’s all look forward to the day when we start to rebuild the Warriors and this country. We’ll catch you on the warning track. Aloha, mahalo and greetings, Joe Lacob fans.


  1. OK, I resisted all the whale jokes till the BB King line but any chance we’ll be seeing photos of these whales in a future post perhaps – I mean it’s a long time till Hanukah…

    Comment by Brett Gardner — July 19, 2010 @ 7:31 am

  2. Great shot with the shadowed pelicans in the foreground. Reminds me of that old Dixon Lanier Merritt poem:
    A wonderful bird is a pelican,
    His bill will hold more than his belican.
    He can take in his beak
    Food enough for a week;
    But I’m damned if I see how the helican.

    Comment by Kevin D — July 19, 2010 @ 8:17 am

  3. “Holy big gills, what a krill” We’ll be front and center at the moneyman concert! love our coastal sunshine…mucho gracious on your uplifting energy.

    Comment by Babs — July 19, 2010 @ 8:22 am

  4. You gotta see Bruce’s pictures of those whales. (Guest slot perhaps?) You sound just like a warriors fan, blind hope.

    Comment by former stats girl — July 19, 2010 @ 8:59 am

  5. Very nice photos, how did you pick them? Haha, skinny jeans? Well at least those whales have facebook….

    Comment by sun chipper — July 19, 2010 @ 11:01 am

  6. What’s coming into Monterey Bay next? The Titanic? I’ve always enjoyed a bacon, lettuce and krill sandwich. Wasn’t Eddie Money a cop way back when? Sounds like he was working the Evidence Locker pretty heavily. Don’t count out Larry Ellison yet. He may buy the entire league.

    Comment by Howard Wales — July 19, 2010 @ 1:55 pm

  7. Miss the NBA? Start dribbling before the season

    Comment by boots — July 19, 2010 @ 3:50 pm

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