A blue shark, Risso’s dolphins and much more

Blue shark attacking fish bait

On Saturday, I went on the coolest ocean adventure. It was the Cabrillo Aquarium‘s annual “Catalina Above and Below” trip. After waking up at 4:15 in the morning, I managed to arrive in San Pedro by 5:30 to board the First String, which left at 6:00. Getting up early and mornings in general are not my strength, hence the reason for all the details about the timing. For me, getting up at 4:15 is a true achievement in and of itself. But I love the ocean and the trip turned out to be well worth any early morning discomfort.

The day before the trip, Cabrillo Aquarium staff members placed traps on the ocean floor closer to Catalina. As a research institution, the aquarium has permits to do so and everyone on the boat had the opportunity to see what was caught. So many cool ocean creatures! There were hagfish, market squid, kelp bass, garibaldis, sea stars, moray eels, pink urchins, sheephead fish, California spiny lobsters, scorpion fish, long-spine urchins, California sea cucumbers, sardines, rock wrasse and many more.

It was great because many scientists and experts from the Cabrillo Aquarium were on board and explained what all the various animals were, details about them and allowed passengers to touch a few. Most of the animals were released back to the ocean, but a few were kept for the aquarium.

The trip also turned out to include some amazing dolphin and whale watching opportunities. We spotted one fin whale, a super big pod of common dolphins, off-shore bottlenose dolphins and Risso’s dolphins. That was my first time seeing Risso’s! Thrilling!

This exciting day ended with a visit from a blue shark. The aquarium placed ground up fish in the water called chum to attract sharks. After an hour and a half of waiting, everyone started thinking the sharks would be a no show. But then at the last minute an eight to nine foot long blue shark showed up. It was absolutely beautiful. Showcasing a perfectly mixed blue back and white underneath, it fearlessly circled the bait near the boat. It’s hard to tell in the photo, but it’s actually smiling for the camera.

Needless to say there will be more posts coming up soon on all these fabulous ocean creatures. And I highly recommend this trip to anyone interested in the ocean. The Cabrillo Aquarium does this trip every year in June and their staff members know so much and are all very friendly.


  1. Bryan says

    This is an amazing photo! I’ve never seen a blue shark, let alone one smiling. Great shot. Look forward to hearing more about this adventure.

  2. Esther says

    Hey Carolyn! It was great chatting with you on the trip, it was a good one! And the pic is awesome, definitely looks like a huge blue shark smile. 🙂

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