Whale ID off of California

From: kim marshall-tilas (kim_marshalltilas@hotmail.com)
Date: Sat May 25 2002 - 15:54:39 EDT


Reply: From your description I am guessing that what you saw, if not killer
whales, could have been a Risso's dolphin or a pilot whale but pilot whales
don't have white markings near their heads. Risso's are from 8.5 to 12.5
feet long and have a tall dorsal fin. Their coloration can be mottled with
white scars and they have a bulbous head. If you find a photo of a Risso's
and think this is what you saw let me know. I am curious.

Thank you!!
Kim

Question:
I was sailing last weekend from Catalina to Marina Del Rey, off the coast of
southern California. About half-way between the island and the mainland,
about 10 miles offshore, my friend and I saw what we first thought were
dolphins, which we see there all the time. They were swimming slowly, 5-10
knots, and breathing repeatedly. I would estimate a group (pod?) of between
five and ten of them, but it was hard to tell.
> >
> > Something didn't look quite right, though, and as I peered closer I saw
>that their very pronouced dorsal fin was narrower and sharper than that of
>the dolphins I've seen near Los Angeles. Their heads were much bigger and
>more bulbous as well.
> >
> > They weren't colored like dolphins either. They were quite dark near
>their tails and got a bit lighter near the dorsal fin. Their heads looked
>almost white, but the dark gray didn't blend smoothly into the white.
>Rather, the two colorations came together in a pattern of spotiness of
>varying density.
> >
> > They were at least two to three times the size of dolphins I've seen
>here.
> >
> > My first guess was beluga whales but someone told me they don't really
>have dorsal fins. Is this true? As I reread my description here, it sort
>of sounds like an orca, but I think I would have recognized them
>immediately if that's what they were, and they were a bit smaller than I
>thought orcas were.
> >
> > Anyway, thanks for taking the time to read this. Can you help ID my
>sighting?
> >
> > Thanks,
> > Steve Petit
> > Field Services Technician
> > Traffic Safety Systems
> >
> >

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