Blue whale—live!

August 31, 2015 • 2:00 pm

by Matthew Cobb

The BBC and the PBS have been running a series of live programmes about the sea called Big Blue Live [The programme’s BBC website is here, the PBS site is here.]

Yesterday they were broadcasting from Monterey Bay and interviewing a local expert when they suddenly heard that a blue whale had been spotted in the bay. The excitement of the presenter, Steve Blackshaw, is palpable, and he does a remarkable job of explaining the images from the programme’s helicopter—in particular the whale’s repeated short breaths before it dives deep into the undersea canyon to feed on krill.


29 thoughts on “Blue whale—live!

  1. I usually resent presenters, but Blackshaw manages to add and not detract from the event. Best blue whale movie I’ve seen too!

    1. A documentary I saw sometime in the past year had some very good, better than usual, blue whale footage in it also.

      One interesting segment was obtained by attaching a camera to the head of a blue whale to get a “whale’s eye view” of the whale feeding. Diving below, and then up through a mass of krill.

      Another interesting segment was observing a blue whale defecating. It was . . . , impressive. Divers be-ware!

      I agree though, this clip is very good.

  2. I’ll have a look at this when I am home tonight.

    I recently went whale watching with my family, just off Cape Cod, and it was absolutely fantastic to see these animals.

    David Attenborough next to a blue whale in “Life of Mammals” was also a great clip.

  3. We did a whale watching cruise out of Moss Landing a couple of years ago and saw many, many humpback whales, but no blue whales. Saw lots of other interesting critters too. The on-board naturalist was excellent. It is a great cruise and as far as I know, it lasts a longer time than the other boat trips available in the area.

    1. I was fortunate to have that experience as well, on a boat off the coast of San Diego. It was awesome.

    2. If you went out of Moss Landing it is likely that the woman the Steve was chatting with in this video (Doris) is the same naturalist that you would have gone out with on your tour. I am psyched that I will be taking a whale watching trip on this boat this Thursday!

  4. I agree with the presenter completely! Everyone should try to see one of these magnificent creatures and do all they can to help preserve their populations (and, other wildlife too, of course). I’d freak out too if I saw one.

  5. That was cool. I am glad to live in an age of wonders; and age that includes swelling populations of blue whales.
    Humans are not always so bad…

  6. Monterey Bay is a lovely area to see if you are ever out there just south of the San Fran area. Kind of the high rent region as well with Pebble Beach and Carmel close by.

    1. My wife and I seem to end up in Monterey a lot. Great place for wildlife watching and the aquarium is fantastic. Most folks know it as the setting for John Steinbeck’s book Cannery Row, which was based on the real life Ed Rickett’s. Rickett’s wrote a wonderful guide to the west coast intertidal zone called Between Pacific Tides.

    2. I’m fortunate enough to live on Monterey Bay, about 17 miles from Moss Landing. Beside the whale show in the bay, Elkhorn Slough in Moss Landing is a marvelous place to see harbor seals, sea lions, and sea otters. (And, of course, birds.)

  7. Beautiful, beautiful footage – but my frustration with footage of whales, blue whales in particular, is that there’s never anything in shot that I can use as a point of reference to judge size. I guess swimming or sailing up to it might put it off…but still, I never quite come away with a grasp of how big they actually are. Although they are apparently very big.

    1. There are some subtle scale cues in this clip, including the surf breaking across the whale’s back, and the arc of the exhaled spray. (If you’ve seen footage of the Bellagio fountain in Las Vegas, try mentally superimposing that on the whale’s blowhole.)

  8. I am in the UK, and the BBC have always (during my entire 69 years) broadcast the most incredible wildlife programmes. I well remember watching the likes of Armand and Michaela Dennis, and Hans and Lotte Hass, in awe, as a youngster in the 1950s (in black and white, if you please!); and the whole country followed a very young David Attenborough on Zoo Quest as he collected animals for London Zoo from the remotest parts of the earth (yes – he really did!). I have to say, though, that I still prefer programmes about our own more modest wildlife, and Springwatch and its various spin-offs and web links have proved very popular indeed. Last week, during the last days of the school holidays, we enjoyed Big Blue UK every morning, and although seahorses may not be as impressive as blue whales, they are equally interesting and quite delightful!

  9. How delightful, both the video and the presenter’s astonishment and joy – so sincere 🙂

    We live in the Salinas Valley and visit Monterey often, both for work and play.

    Just three weeks ago my wife and I spent several nights staying on Cannery row for our anniversary (27th, if you wonder) and one of our highlights was an afternoon whale-watching trip.

    Of course we saw many, many humpbacks (from our hotel room balcony as well, being on the oceanfront.) But the highlight of that day was not one, but TWO blue whales. Our boat had traveled south out of the bay off Carmel/Big Sur. The two likely weren’t together, just in proximity to each other, as they usually sly solo, unlike Humpbacks which travel in pods (I believe that’s the correct terminology.)

    The largest of the two was at least 80 feet long (we were in a 70′ boat.) We ended up getting with 150 yards of it when it surfaced the second time. (You can’t move within 200 yards on your own, by law.)

    But the difference between the blues and the Humpbacks, especially this larger, closer one, was palpable. It was an enormous presence, The sound of it clearing it’s airway was concussive, and you could almost hear it rumble through the water.

    The Humpbacks are lovely and stunning, but these Blue Whales are majestic and spectacular beyond words. I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that both my wife and I had tears in our eyes by the time we turned back for the harbor.

    This video is a lovely reminder. Thank you!

  10. Absolutely in awe. What a moving sight, still here despite our best efforts to kill them off. Magnificent creature.

  11. Steve Backshall impresses and amuses me in equal measure. He’s been in a fair few UK shows including a fairly long running kids series called ‘Deadly 60’ and was in a really great show called ‘Expedition Borneo’ where everyone seemed to be picking up new-to-science species from the ground around them. His ability to be filmed without his shirt on is the source of my amusement. His enthusiasm which really engages my daughters is why I’ll seek out whatever he presents.

  12. Very nice to see a blue whale.

    I really really hate this hysterical reporting style. For me it destroys the moment completely.

    It’s not a sports-event and even then I don’t appreciate these word-floods in an over-enthusiastic voice.

    1. Contrast Backshall with Attenborough; imagine him doing the mountain gorilla segment from ‘Life on Earth’…

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