Archive for February, 2006

Baja Day 6: San Jose Channel & Isla San Jose

Friday, February 10th, 2006

This is the events of our fifth full day of the expedition. All photos from this day can be found here. The daily expedition report is also available.

Blue Whale

We awoke this morning in the San Jose Channel north of La Paz. The sea was beyond calm; I have been on rougher waters on a farm pond. Very few clouds in the sky.

We spent the morning looking for whales. Didn’t find much more than a spout or two in the distance.

Dolphin Breaking Water Surface
Dolphins Bow Riding

However, we did find a group of dolphins. Several hundred dolphins feeding, whistling, playing and generally swimming around doing dolphin things.

A couple of dolphins jumped out of the water to do a tail stand or, even, a double flip.

There were also a lot of random birds and quite a few sea lions. There was a minor scuffle between a dolphin and a sea lion. Not clear who won, but the sea lion departed rather quickly with a bark of frustration.

While the dolphins were riding the bow wave of the Sea Bird, we could quite distinctly hear their whistles. Funny; as soon as the ship slowed down to drift in the middle of the dolphins, the ones riding the bow wave immediately departed. Seems they like the thrill of bow riding only when we are moving at a decent clip.

Read the rest of this entry »

Baja Day 5: Cabo San Lucas

Thursday, February 9th, 2006

This is the events of our fourth full day of the expedition. All photos from this day can be found here. The daily expedition report is also available.

Sunrise At Land's End, Cabo San Lucas

After a long night of trying to sleep in pitching seas, we awoke to seals barking at sunrise at Land’s End right at the edge of the Cabo San Lucas harbor. To be fair, I was the only one that couldn’t sleep. Christine slept like a log.

Rocks at the End of the World

The rocks at Land’s End are spectacular. Huge rocky monoliths sticking hundreds of feet vertically from the sea. There is even an arch.

Cloud's Over Land's End

There were a few clouds in the sky, making for an even more impressive sunrise.

We moored in Cabo San Lucas for refueling and resupplying.

Cabo’s economy is entirely tourist driven and it is booming. This is clearly a playground for rich americans. One look at the numerous multi-million dollar, US based, private yachts in the harbor confirmed that! As such, there are a multitude of mega-construction projects.

Cabo San Lucas at Sunrise

Beyond the simple beauty of the town and emphasis on Tequila, it felt like every other seaside party town. Lots of cheese-ball gimmicky bars and restaurants. Even so, there were about a dozen little hole in the wall eateries I would have loved to have visited. A couple of places offered “you catch it, we clean/cook it” policies. And the place is cheap. Certainly, a place we will have to revisit some time. Just have to figure out how to avoid the TGI-McFunsters crap.

Read the rest of this entry »

Baja Day 4: Travel Day.

Wednesday, February 8th, 2006

This is the events of our third full day of the expedition. All photos from this day can be found here. The daily expedition report is also available.

Gray Whale

At the beginning of Day 4, we went whale watching. We ended up following several whales that were mid-courtship. It seems that gray whale males don’t fight for the affection of a female. Instead, two males will go after a single female where one male actually helps the other during the mating process.

Like the day before, whale watching was divided into two groups; odd cabins go second, even cabins go first. When not whale watching, William — one of the crew of biologists / naturalists on board — gave an amusing lecture of the history of Tequila. As it turns out, Louise — the ship’s “hotel manager” — is a big fan of Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant and we had a long chat about the finer points of Tequila, including sampling one that I have never encountered before. Given that we are in an odd cabin, it was an excellent way to warm up before whale watching.

The rest of the day has been spent on the move. We traversed south through the “un-navigable waters”, past San Carlos, and onwards into the open Pacific waters south to Cabo San Lucas. There were whales spouting all around us, lots of random birds and the occasional dolphin and/or seal bouncing through the surf (quite the argument over which one it was ensued).

Baja Landscape

To our east is the shore of one of the numerous islands along Baja. Beautiful towering cliffs and hills with the sun setting against them and clouds gathering around their peaks. One particular mountain caught my eye in that it looked like a regular hill that had simply been sliced in half with the raw face of the cut facing into the pacific. Unfortunately, the light wasn’t very good when I took the photo.

Read the rest of this entry »

Baja Day 3: Whale Watching & Island Exploration

Tuesday, February 7th, 2006

This is the events of our second full day of the expedition. All photos from this day can be found here. The daily expedition report is also available.

Gray Whale Sequence #1
Gray Whale Sequence #2
Gray Whale Sequence #3
Gray Whale Sequence #4
Gray Whale Sequence #5
Gray Whale Sequence #6
Gray Whale Sequence #7
Gray Whale Sequence #8
Birds in Fog

On day 3, we woke to an incredibly foggy morning. Fog so thick it was hard to find the sun. Given that the boat turns 180 degrees with each tide change, it is hard to keep your bearings unless you also know the tide tables.

In the morning, we hoped in a Zodiac and went cruising for gray whales. The area that we are in is both breeding and calving grounds. As such, we saw a number of mother/child pairs. The animals are both quite playful and curious. The adult female whale will often be upwards of 50 feet in length! Big animals! Makes you feel damned small when one surfaces next to your boat.

Gray Whale And Baby

In particular, the large whales would often stick their noses straight out of the water. In one instance, a whale stuck at least 10 feet of itself straight up in front of our boat. Unfortunately, I was unable to snap a photo. This behavior is called “spy hopping” and the whale’s eye will often come above the surface of the water.

The grays are a very peaceful species. Now. When hunted, they were known to quite handily destroy boats. Interesting to be reminded of this while floating amongst these giants in a comparatively tiny inflatable boat.

Small Bones on Beach_1

After watching the whales for a while, we then headed over to “three dead shark” beach. Roger named it that as a fisherman had harvested three sharks, a turtle (illegal) and a ray on the beach, rudely leaving the carcasses to rot. The beach was covered with all kinds of treasures; crabs, small bones, shells, snails and neat plants.

Read the rest of this entry »

Baja Day 2: “Yay! I’m not dreaming!”

Monday, February 6th, 2006

This is the events of our first full day of the expedition. All photos from this day can be found here. The daily expedition report is also available.

Sunrise Over Foggy Water

Roger awoke this morning and asked, “Where are we?”

“On the boat, ” I replied.

“YAY! I’m not dreaming!”

Though it looked like a dream. We awoke in dense fog with the sun just barely cutting through.

Sanddollar

After breakfast, we hopped into the Zodiacs and headed to Magdelena island. A beautiful 60 mile long island of the finest white sand I have encountered. From there, we hiked over the dunes to the Pacific ocean side Sanddollar beach. Aptly named; there were thousands and thousands of sanddollars strewn across the beach.

Ant on Evening Primrose Cropped
Sand Verbena Cropped

On the way over the dunes, we ran into loco weed, “pickle plant” (a plant that is edible and contains lots and lots of water), sand verbena (purple) and evening primrose (yellow). There were lots of animal tracks. We also encountered midden heaps where various tribes had piled hundreds of thousands of shells in various parts of the beach.

Read the rest of this entry »

Baja Day 1: Day of Travel

Sunday, February 5th, 2006

This is an accounting of the first day of events of one week ago today. I will be posting the rest of the trip notes throughout the coming week, along with many photos. We spent the last week on Lindblad’s Baja California: Among the Great Whales expedition. Awesome trip. Zero connectivity (feature!!). So this will be posted after the fact.

Today, we left San Jose at 6:00am to travel to La Paz, Mexico to meet the Sea Bird for a cruise around the Baja Peninsula. We are traveling with Lindblad Expeditions, an operation that runs relatively small ships (typically well less than 100 passengers) with a goal of visiting various wildlife and natural phenomena in some part of the world. My parents have gone on several Lindblad expeditions and were impressed enough to take us with them on the Baja cruise.

Lindblad has a tie with the National Geographic society and, apparently, we will have professional quality videography and photography experts joining us. I suspect I’ll learn a thing or two. There is also an end-of-day wrap up of the day’s events and people are encouraged to drag along their laptops and share photos and notes.

A very different experience than the 1500+ person mega-cruiser experience.

This is also my first trip to Mexico, though I’m sure there will be more. I have to gain Tequila Demi-God status, after all.

So far, we have done little beyond seeing an airport and a highway of Mexico. That will all change tomorrow.

Read the rest of this entry »