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Sunday, December 9 , 2018, 11:49 pm | Fair 52º


Captain’s Log: A White Whale Prowls the California Coast

Once again there is a white whale prowling the seas, and I can just hear Capt. Ahab saying, “Here we go again!” This one cannot be described as “great” — at least not yet.

A trusted friend of mine, Capt. Tom Mattusch of the party boat Huli Cat out of Half Moon Bay, sent me a note about the surprising sighting on a recent whale-watching trip. He wrote, “A number of people on Huli Cat saw an animal in the 25- to 30-foot range swimming right towards the boat and passed right in front of the bow.”

White whales seem to display a trend of swimming right toward boats. Fortunately for all, including the smallish critter, there was no collision.

What causes a whale to lose color? It is Leucism, which is described as a condition in which there is partial loss of pigmentation in an animal resulting in white, pale or patchy coloration of the skin, hair, feathers scales or cuticle, but not the eyes. Unlike albinism, it is caused by a reduction in multiple types of pigment, not just melanin.

This whale probably will not be immortalized in prose, but then … it is young yet. Who knows what its future holds?

There were no bonafide experts who saw the animal close enough to accurately identify the specific species of whale. Capt. Mattusch is a good captain who reports things straight up and doesn’t even stretch a fish for a better story. So his word is good enough for me.

The sighting was up off of Half Moon Bay. If it is a (white) gray whale, then it may be heading our way and be here very soon. Wouldn’t this be like the Holy Grail of whale researchers? A visually unique (even at a distance) whale we can all watch finish growing up and mature. Seafaring folks live for this stuff!

Think we should name this whale? Moby Dick is already taken.

— Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need. Visit softininc.blogspot.com to learn more about the organization and how you can help. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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