Valley News -

By Diane Sieker

Hamilton K-8 sixth-grade students take whale-watching trip


Last updated 3/30/2019 at 2:11am

Diane Sieker photo

A humpback whale lunges after baitfish during the Hamilton K-8 sixth grade whale-watching trip.

The threat of afternoon showers did not faze the Hamilton K-8 Elementary School sixth-grade students from enjoying an educational whale watching field trip Wednesday, March 20.

The seas were calm, despite a coming storm, and the captain of the San-Diego-based boat set sail for the coastal waters, in search of sea mammals, turtles, sharks and birds. Spring is a good time of year for whale observations.

During the winter and spring months, California gray whales migrate from Alaska to the Baja California Peninsula in Mexico. They travel close to the shore off the San Diego coastline, giving people an opportunity to see these animals up close. Humpback whales are also present, feeding on huge schools of anchovies, joining in the feast with dolphins, porpoises, sea lions, sharks, game fish and seabirds.

The Seaforth Landing "Privateer" crew piloted the ship out of the docks and out into the calm waters. The captain and onboard marine biologist  narrated the trip, teaching the students about the sea creatures and indicating where the animals were sighted off the sides of the craft. Crew members were available for questions during the outing.

The students got to see a humpback whale, three different species of dolphins, sea lions, a variety of seabirds, schools of anchovies and possibly a shark.

Crew member Ryan said, "Quite a day on the ocean today. We expected rain but had pretty much sunny skies the whole trip. We started the trip off with a couple of inshore bottlenose dolphins inside the jetties right off the bat and then continued southwest. We had reports of a northbound gray whale, but after a long travel, it never showed itself. Heading back up the coast, we got a report of a humpback and dolphins, and sure enough, we found what we were looking for. Black-vented shearwater, common dolphins and a humpback whale were all feeding on a bait ball, and we were able to get some good looks. I'm happy the rain held off, as we were being chased by a storm front heading back in."

Diane Sieker photo

Students pose for pictures on the bus during the Hamilton K-8 sixth grade whale-watching trip.

From December through April, students on field trips aboard the Privateer learn about the gray whale migration, the longest migration of any mammal on Earth, totaling 12,000 miles round trip. The crew teach about the migration itself and purpose for their migratory behavior. Students gain a better understanding of whale morphology, feeding behavior and spout identification. The students learned the differences between baleen and toothed whales and what other species may be seen in the local waters, such as blue and minke whales and even orcas.

The children ended their voyage with a brown bag lunch enjoyed on the Seaforth Landing's well-kept grounds, followed by a coordinated cleanup of the area. Just as they were putting the last pieces of trash into the bags, the storm finally arrived, leaving the children, teachers and chaperones scrambling for the bus.

Bus driver Will delivered the students back to school about 5 p. m., with many stories about their day to share with family and friends.

See the entire photo gallery by clicking here!

Diane Sieker can be reached by email at [email protected]


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