Whales aren't simply whales in the general, loosely grouped sense. Not to the nature-loving, bio-minded adventurers who regularly venture off our shores to study and admire the largest animals on earth.
Whales are individuals, with stories and histories. Take Hook and Delta, two of the much-talked-about blue whales seen off Long Beach in the summer of 2013. You'll recall that Hook's fluke has a bit missing and Delta's tail? The ends point at the sky.
Likewise, orcas were popping up -- or swimming by, rather -- in the late autumn. Many of them, in fact, leading to multiple sightings of the black-and-white beauties (and producing much photographic love on various social media sites).
What to do, where to go and what to see
As for the blowhole-bedecked superstar of the summer of 2014, at least in this neck of the ocean? That honor might just go to Bryde's whale. The "rare" and "elusive" behemoth has been spied not far from SoCal shores a few times, including on July 6 and July 21, by the Blue Whale and Sea Life Cruise. (Update: Another boat in the area spied the whale, but the Blue Whale and Sea Life Cruise is on the watch.)
The cruises are operated by Harbor Breeze Cruises in partnership with the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach.
- Images: Unbelievable Animals Stories
What's the Bryde's tail, er, tale rather? The whale "is typically found south of this region in tropical and subtropical waters," says the aquarium. They're not a frequent tourist to these here parts, in short. Not like those SoCal-skimming blues and the grays, the Bryde's whales' blowhole-y mammalian brethen.
And speaking of the blue whales: This is their time of year, if you want to try and spy one. They're endangered, lest we give all the "rare" focus to the Bryde's, and they're the largest animal on earth. Thus if a journey out onto the Pacific yields a blue sighting but not a Bryde's, it is a good and even magical day.
A day to remember, in fact. And if you do run into a Bryde's on a cruise, best know how to pronounce their handle: It's BROO-duhz, says the Long Beach-based institution.