Southern California breaking news and trends

PHOTOS: 'Superpod' of 5,000 dolphins and endangered fin whales spotted off Long Beach

Fin Whale Watch Long Beach

Mae Ryan/KPCC

A megapod of common dolphins swim off the shores of Catalina Island.

Fin Whale Watch Long Beach

Mae Ryan/KPCC

A fin whale swims off the coast of Los Angeles. These whales can get up to 70-feet long and weigh up to 150,000-lb, making it the second largest animal on earth.

Fin Whale Watch Long Beach

Mae Ryan/KPCC

The Aquarium of the Pacific, seen behind the boats, is located in Long Beach and keeps careful track of the fin whales that come to visit the nearby waters.

Fin Whale Watch Long Beach

Mae Ryan/KPCC

Birds hang out in the Long Beach Harbor.

Fin Whale Watch Long Beach

Mae Ryan/KPCC

Dan Salas, the CEO of Harbor Breeze Cruises, explains that the fin whales are currently near Los Angeles because of the abundance of krill, small crustaceans.

Fin Whale Watch Long Beach

Mae Ryan/KPCC

A sea lion raises a flipper off the coast of Los Angeles.

Fin Whale Watch Long Beach

Mae Ryan/KPCC

A crew member from the The Aquarium of the Pacific gets ready to take off on a Harbor Breeze Cruise for whale watching.

Fin Whale Watch Long Beach

Mae Ryan/KPCC

Over 5,000 dolphins swim off the coast of Los Angeles on January 16th, 2013.

Fin Whale Watch Long Beach

Mae Ryan

A Marine Biologist shows krill, left, small crustaceans that whales eat with their baleen, right, plates that filter food from the water.

Fin Whale Watch Long Beach

Mae Ryan/KPCC

A family listens to marine biologists explain the rarity of the fin whales, which are the second largest mammal on the planet.

Fin Whale Watch Long Beach

Mae Ryan/KPCC

The fin whales and dolphins swim near Catalina Island off the coast of Los Angeles.


A rare "superpod" of dolphins formed this week off the coast of Southern California not far from the shipping lanes — a treacherous aquatic crossroads where ocean life collides with port traffic.

Forming a true animal collective, an estimated 5,000 or more protected sea creatures showed up to protest the deadly "ship strike" zone, or possibly just to feed on the squid invasion.

KPCC spotted the frolicking cetacean convergence around 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday in the waters off Long Beach past Rainbow Harbor.

Pods of Pacific white-sided dolphins were seen consorting with crews of common dolphins to create a widespread, fast-moving circus of jumps, spins, dives, and other acrobatic water feats.

We encountered the dolphin party while out searching for an 80-foot whale (on a 65-foot boat) as part of a Harbor Breeze excursion to learn about the elusive, endangered creatures recently seen in the area.

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LISTEN: How it sounds when a Beluga whale shocks scientists, mimics human-talk

beluga

Photo by David Paul Ohmer via Flickr Creative Commons

beluga

Photo by Freezy SoIce via Flickr Creative Commons

beluga

Photo by Dave Mee via Flickr Creative Commons


io9 reports that researchers have released the first audio evidence of a cetacean spontaneously mimicking human speech (listen below to see how a whale thinks we sound).

The kibbitzing cetacean in question is not a trained dolphin but rather a beluga whale named "NOC," who was part of the U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program in San Diego, California.

NOC died in 1999, but his vocalizations, both in air and underwater, were recorded and investigated by researchers, revealing an "amplitude rhythm similar to human speech," according marine scientist Sam Ridgway in the newest issue of Current Biology

Ridgway calls the white whale's intervals, frequencies, octaves, and harmonics "unlike usual whale sounds, but not unlike those of the human voice" and believes NOC's mimicry is a feat of "vocal learning." 

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