A Very Orca December

The superstar of whaledom makes a SoCal cameo.

Every whale is a superstar, but orcas? Or killer whales, if you prefer? They tend to get top billing.

Maybe it is their distinctive black-and-white marking, or the fact that they've got a rather memorable moniker, or that Hollywood loves to put them on-screen when a whale is called for. Willy, of "Free Willy"? A big ol' orca, you betcha.

So when a pod of some 20 titans of the ocean shows up off of Southern California, it is notable, especially when we're all on the lookout for the classic gray whales of winter as they journey on their annual migration.

The Aquarium of the Pacific and Harbor Breeze Cruises spied the pod off Long Beach earlier in December, but orcas have been spotted off Ventura, too. Grays and blues are out there, too, along with fin whales, and a sperm whale, too, which is another unusual whale to see 'round our watery parts.

Do you think the gray whales got on the whale phone and called up the orcas and sperm whales and the fin representatives and the blue group said "guys, you gotta get down here, SoCal is major?" And what would a whale phone look like? We're picturing an over-sized conch.

Call it "the winter of the whale" -- that's what the aquarium is going with -- and get out on a boat to see if you can see some blowhole action. As always with a whale watch, timing has to be in your favor, but bet you'll admire some dolphins and harbor seals along the way.

Are they as surprise to see the orcas as we are?

Let's love on the fin and blue whales, too, who are both endangered. Oh, and the fins? "Second largest animal on the planet," says the aquarium. When will they get their "Free Willy" superstardom moment?

If you do or don't spy an orca, stop by the aquarium's "Whales: Voices in the Sea" exhibit for a look at the "environmental threats that facing" these gargantuan beauties, and our role in their conservation. It isn't solely about admiring them and snapping pictures, after all, though that is one important facet in the human-whale accords.

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