November 2022

Skipper Megan Tracks Whales

You might not notice right away, it could be fifteen minutes after the boat Velocity leaves the harbor, but soon it’s inevitable that you notice an all-female crew runs the boat. At the head is Megan Petersen.

The excitement of whale watching has not dulled for Megan over the eight years she’s worked for Stagnero’s, and as she talks about sea life it’s clear that navigating a boat in search of whales and other animals is a passion. Of course, that was never a surprise to Megan, the daughter of a scuba master and a nature lover, she studied Marine Science in college, and while she knew she never wanted a job behind a desk, Megan did think her path was heading toward research. Indeed, it was as she worked at a lab in Carmel, right on the water, where she’d see whales and not only stop in her tracks to watch but sound the cry so others could do the same.

It is surprising how many varieties of animals visit our ocean, and that is due mostly to the expansive underwater canyon. This cavernous wonder of nature provides plenty of food for sea life, which is why our oceans are destinations for vacations and research. “We live in this community of giants, between the redwoods and whales.” Megan hopes these expeditions help with ocean conversation, creating connections with sea life, and the majestic whales, in particular, give people an experience they can look back on and is more effective than anything one sees on TV. Megan calls the expeditions “education forward.” She says the goal is to provide information in an accessible way, so people do feel called to protect the ocean and everything that lives in it. One behavior people could change to be a part of the conservation effort? Balloons. Make sure they end up in the trash, or else they find their way to the ocean, and that is certain death to an animal.

Whale watching is year round; humpback, baleen, blue whales, luckily, and probably because of ocean life education and conservation, whales come through our bay throughout the year, as well as 7 different types of dolphins, including orcas, and two different types of porpoise, including varieties of sharks, including the basking shark, which has just recently started to come back.

Megan explains that when she sets out to find whales, she understands that she is the guest in their home; whales are massive creatures, and she needs to approach their territory respectfully. Whale watching is not about engaging with the animals; though simply being in the ocean is disruptive, she and her crew work hard on being observers, not participants. Although humpback whales have been known to get curious and will circle around, swim under, or swim alongside the boat. Each and every time a humpback has approached her vessel Megan has felt incredibly fortunate to be in the presence of these graceful, enormous beings.

by Carmen Clark

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *