In the Near Distance: Gray Whale Season

Bundle up and be on the lookout for blowholes.

GIANTS ON THE HORIZON: Few creatures are both known and a tad mystical, but whales have an almost supernatural knack for existing fully in each column. On the one hand we humans know these magnificent mammals top-to-blowhole. We understand migration patterns, what they eat, how they sleep, and the hundreds of quirks that define the largest living creatures on the planet. And yet..? That doesn't stop us for centering the whale on color-swirl posters, and rainbow-hued t-shirts, and writing poems and paeans to the our mammalian brethren. It's true that something can be known and still inspire enchantment and art, and few creatures do this as aptly, and as often, as the whale. We're fortunate, here in the Golden State, that the known-but-fantastical beasties pass by our shores each winter during their annual migration, and that we get a chance to maybe possibly fingers crossed admire them from the vantage point of a boat. Gray whale spotting season kicks off the day after Christmas, if the holidays have you in a poetical, grandeur-seeking mood. Want to see an earthling that is both a star of scientific research and a favorite subject of psychedelic-minded painters? Book a passage from Oxnard starting on...

DEC. 26: Both Island Packers and Channel Islands Sportfishing Center will be nosing the passenger boats out of Channel Islands Harbor in search of the magnificent grays. The Island Packers trips run about 3 1/2 hours, are narrated, and are non-landing, so it is about you, the boat, and a possible blowhole. As for the Channel Islands Sportfishing folks? That excursion a half day, so keep those whale-lovin' eyes good and peeled, because "an estimated 20,000 to 25,000 Pacific Gray Whales migrate through the Channel on their way to and from the warm lagoons of Baja California, Mexico." Will you see one of those thousands of grays? Well, a little luck should be on your side, but you'll see some birds, and maybe a seal or dolphin, and plenty of sunshine or that quintessential soft sea air. That soft foggy setting lends to the whale's mystical rep, something we never want to see go away. Yes, we should understand these creatures, the better to preserve and help where needed, but a whale t-shirt full of rainbows and planets it kind of amazing, too. May these giants always be on both side of the science/art line.

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