*Post last updated at 6:30 p.m.
By Pete Thomas
Dozens of sperm whales were spotted Monday afternoon off Trump National Golf Club on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, sending marine mammal enthusiasts scrambling to locate them from boats.
The extremely rare sighting – single foraging males are occasionally seen, but this is a nursery pod including young whales – comes during a six-day period that has included rare sightings of two types of killer whales in Southland waters.
Harbor Breeze Cruises was with the sperm whales during two afternoon excursions on Monday. Capt. Mike Redlew of the La Espada said after the first trip that the pod exceeded 100 animals. They were spread out in sub-groups and traveling to the south, toward Long Beach.
Said Tim Hammond, a photographer aboard the boat: "They were literally all around the boat. Everywhere you looked there was a blow, it was incredible."
Sperm whales, iconic toothed whales that prey on giant squid, last showed in force in October 2014 off Orange County, as a pod numbering about 50 animals.
At the time, Jay Barlow, a sperm whale expert with NOAA, said that he knew of only one other instance where a large group of sperm whales had passed between Santa Catalina Island and the mainland.
According to the latest estimate by NOAA, the minimum population of sperm whales off California, Oregon, and Washington is about 750 animals.
They spend most of their time feeding so far offshore that they’re rarely seen.
Because of Monday’s sighting, and the whales' southerly course, whale-watching operations in Orange and San Diego County will be on full alert Tuesday.
Last Wednesday, about 50 offshore killer whales spent much of the day off Orange County, in another extremely rare showing. Over the weekend, offshore killer whales and transient killer whales were spotted in different areas off Ventura.