The Farallon Islands Are Off Limits to Humans, but Not Wildlife

Just outside the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco Bay, we followed the footprints of a whale. The footprints were real: flat slicks on the surface of the ocean formed when a whale’s flukes — the two lobes of its tail fin — push up water on a dive. Seabirds clustered above the same patch of water, interested in the fishy breakfast being stirred up there. On this gray, drizzly morning, three adult humpbacks lazily circled our whale-watching vessel and dived down repeatedly to feed in the burbling waters where the bay meets the Pacific Ocean. We had barely begun our trip out to the Farallon Islands, 26 miles west of San Francisco, but we had plenty of company. Ten minutes later, out in the shipping lane five miles offshore, we came upon four more humpbacks. A gaggle of inert sea lions sat atop one bobbing green lane buoy, watching us go by… read more >

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