No Gray! How to Orca-strate a Beluga Sighting at the Sperm of the Moment


So, that’s Lina. By turns she’s appealing to our vanity, offering a new way of looking at things, or simply debunking a romantic cliché.


From the beginning of our whale watching trip, when Naomi shattered Lina’s world with the bombshell about colorized space photography, Naomi acted as our preceptor. She was spouting encyclopedic knowledge about aquatic morphology and relevant cultural texts – by turns reminding us that seals don’t have ear flaps and that’s how you can tell them apart from sea lions, or parsing the lyrics from that most iconic of whale songs – Michael Jackson’s “Will You Be There” (theme from Free Willy).


I felt truly remiss, until it came out that Naomi’s mom has a PhD in marine biology, and that she just happened to listen to the entire audiobook of Moby Dick last month. After that, I felt less like an oceanic lunkhead and lucky to be in the company of a chance Cetacean Counselor.

Anyway, you’re not guaranteed to see whales on trips like this. In fact, we pried it out of the on-board guide that some trips return to harbor and the riders have only seen GULLS. Oh, dear gull, that would not have been good.

Due to the marina's proximity to LAX, you're also likely to see planes.

Due to the marina’s proximity to LAX, you’re also likely to see planes.

Luckily, early into the trip we saw a leaping pod of dolphins, so that buoyed our spirits, which truth be told were brought low by the unexpected cold. (Unexpected cold, for an Angeleno, indicates temperatures of a windy 45°F or so – not bone-chilling by any stretch, but brisk enough to pose a challenge to our non-inured systems and to make an easy mockery of our laughably light accouterments.)

Admittedly, I enhanced this photo. See the tiny bump I've circled in the upper right? Well, it was more exciting in person, at least.

Admittedly, I enhanced this photo. See the tiny bump I’m pointing to in the upper right? Well, it felt more impressive in person, at least. This ‘shopped photo attempts to mimic the excitement!

So we sat for many hours. I took the opportunity to show off my specially painted fingerwhales; Lina and Naomi talked business; the galley vendor chatted with us about his job and showed us some cool underwater videos of dolphins and orcas that they’d seen on this very trip the previous week.

Painted FingerWhales™

Painted FingerWhales™

The on-board guide, sensing the potential futility of the mission and seeking to hedge his bets against that most toxic of modern business scourges – the embittered Yelp review – brought out a small, sealed container in which a single illustrative krill floated in formaldehyde, as well as a Ziploc baggie with a chopped-off section of baleen hair.

To quote Lina: "Whale are the whales?"

To quote Lina: “Whale are the whales?”

It was picturesque, at least.

It was picturesque, at least.

The poor guide presented them with all the trumped-up enthusiasm of a doomed shill, desperate to offload the dregs of some worthless product on the gullible masses. This brief brush with a baleen sample could turn out to be the only remarkable moment of this boondoggle of a three-hour tour (three-hour tour).

"Text me when we have fin."

“Text me when we have fin.”

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