As an ecological wonderland, California proudly boasts an extensive array of the richest and most extreme natural habitats in the world; exposing unparalleled topography, reaching from the Pacific Coast to the record-breaking depths of Death Valley. The state is home to the Sierra Nevada mountain range which hosts the highest peak in the contiguous United States, Mount Whitney, and towering over the Southern range is Sequoia National Park, harboring the largest living organisms on Earth. Its environment is limitless and accommodates ecological communities and climates unmatched in the contiguous United States, and in recent weeks, has offered another opportunity to witness one of nature's miracles in the form of the largest mammal on Earth: the blue whale.
My deep-seeded admiration for the state of California aside, my overwhelming gratitude and appreciation for my current location was only strengthened by the recent sightings off the southern coast. A pod of blue whales has been identified in Los Angeles' Santa Monica Bay and Redondo Beach areas for the second consecutive year.
Once in a lifetime whale sighting event
Weighing up to 150 tons and reaching lengths of 108 feet, these creatures are exceptional in both appearance and strength. Researchers estimate this particular pod consists of an astounding 3,000 whales, as part of the global population merely three times that size.
This pod is already exposing eager marine researchers to behaviors uncommon in this setting. In addition to the fact that the pod is unusually close to shore, witnesses have noted that the species is actively courting, breaching the water's surface, as well as willingly approaching kayaks and boats. In combination with this rare mating behavior, an NBC camera crew was able to record a blue whale song above water. Local experts exclaim that the opportunity to witness this serenade is undoubtedly a once in a lifetime experience.
Although summer is peak whale-watching season in Southern California, the last sighting of this nature in the Atlantic was four years ago off the coast of New England, further distinguishing these particular sightings. The species remains endangered, as it is desperately attempting to recover the damage incurred before hunting was banned by the United States. Unfortunately, this recovery period is marked by conflicts in shipping lanes. Whales innocently follow the krill population, forcing them to interact with ships, which in many cases ends in death.
Greenpeace celebrates 40 years of environmental work
As if it were a direct ode to the audacious founders of one of the largest non-profit organizations in the world, the whales' presence on the Pacific coast has fallen in conjunction with the 40th anniversary of Greenpeace. Celebrating in Vancouver, the group paid homage to the protest that spawned an environmental revolution. It was on September 15, 1971 that a boat appropriately named "Greenpeace" set out to Amchitka Island, Alaska to protest American nuclear testing. Eventually, with a great deal of persistence, the campaign facilitated the end of these atomic tests in 1972.
Since that time, Greenpeace has apportioned a significant amount of its funds and campaign efforts toward an international ban on whaling. While Americans have the privilege of claiming whale watching as a beloved pastime, the blue whales of the Antarctic are at less than one percent of their original abundance, despite an astounding 40 years of complete protection. As evidence of the horrific effects of commercial whaling, the only whale species believed to have recovered its population is the East Pacific grey whale, while many species suffer immensely at the hands of whalers, boasting dismal populations of merely 100 members.
While we continue to marvel at the majesty off these enormous creatures, let us take into account the immense dangers that continue to threaten these populations. By fervently protesting commercial whaling, we secure the privilege to witness nature's glory indefinitely. Take it upon yourself to reflect a change in world opinion. Feed the evolution.