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Summertime blues

June 29, 2008 |  9:09 am

Humpback whales are already in the Santa Barbara Channel, and the "humpback experience" will be featured Thursday in the Guide section's print and online editions. But a much larger leviathan, the sleek and majestic blue whale, which can measure 100 feet and weigh 100-plus tons, will be the focus of a special trip being offered on July 12 by the American Cetacean Society's Los Angeles Chapter.

The timing seems perfect. Blue whales have been spotted recently in Mexican waters near the Coronado Islands; off Orange County; in the San Pedro Channel off Los Angeles; off San Francisco and Monterey. In other words, they've migrated into California waters and should soon settle where tiny, shrimp-like krill is most abundant. Typically, the Santa Barbara Channel, where upwelling of cold, nutrient-rich water makes for ideal conditions, is one such alluring location for what is believed to be the largest mammal ever to have inhabited the planet.

The vessel for the ASC-LA trip, which runs from 8 a.m.-4 p.m., is the high-speed catamaran Condor Express, designed with whale-watching in mind. Two naturalists will be aboard to discuss the whales and identify other marine mammals, which often steal the spotlight by making close approaches and performing acrobatics. Humpbacks, in fact, are far more genial than blues, but watching a blue whale move through the water is something you'll never forget.

Diane Alps, a spokeswoman for ACS-LA, bills this "the perfect staycation." Cost is $93 for ACS members, $104 for non-members. For more information visit http://www.acs-la.org/seewhales.htm or call (310) 548-0966.

--Pete Thomas

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Photo credit: Pete Thomas
Caption: A humpback whale waves goodbye to passengers aboard the Condor Express on a recent voyage into the Santa Barbara Channel.

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