By Pete Thomas/GrindTv
The Thanksgiving holiday weekend was stuffed with excitement, as far as Southern California whale watchers were concerned.
Two types of killer whales–one from the south, the other from the north–were spotted hunting sea lions in what were considered rare sightings.
But the greatest spectacle seems to have involved a juvenile humpback whale that breached 30 times, at one point launching completely out of the water, close to shore off Laguna Beach.
The sequence shows the large cetacean seeming to levitate briefly before re-entry.
Mitroff described the day as "one for the record book," and explained that Capt. Tommy White had been looking for killer whales, or orcas, when the humpback whale first breached in front of the 95-foot boat, in about 200 feet of water.
"We kept our cameras ready in case it breached again, and a minute later it did!" Mitroff said. "And again and again... we counted 20 times."
After the whale took a short break it breached eight more times, then twice more as White began to guide the Dana Pride back to port.
“For one little girl it was the first time she had seen a whale,” Mitroff said. “She called it Harry because all the barnacles hanging from its chin looked like a beard.”
Mitroff, a naturalist with the Orange County chapter of the American Cetacean Society, posted these and many other photos of the series of breaches on her Facebook page.
Photos also appear on the Dana Wharf Whale Watching Facebook page.
Alisa Schulman-Janiger, a Southern California whale researcher, said that while humpback whales are known to breach and sometimes breach multiple times, this event is rarely observed or captured by a photographer.
Humpback whales have been spotted for several weeks off Dana Point, which also is unusual.
As for the killer whales spotted over the last several days, one group is from Mexico (known as Eastern Tropical Pacific orcas). These orcas have rarely been documented in U.S. waters.
The other pod is comprised of transient killer whales, more commonly spotted off Monterey in Central California.
Transients were last seen off Dana Point in March of 2013, according to Donna Kalez, general manager of Dana Wharf Whale Watching.