306. Point Lobos: Whaling Station

“Will I see a whale?” is a frequently asked question at Point Lobos. Looking for spouts is the most common way to sight whales at Point Lobos.  Whales are the largest of all mammals and all whales must surface to breath air and the spout is caused by hot air from the whale’s lungs mixing with the cold ocean air.

The typical whales off the coast of Point Lobos are Grays, Humpbacks and Blue Whales.  They are all baleen whales.

Outside the Whaling Station Museum there is an excellent example of baleen in the glass display case, the stiff, broom-like jaw attachment that replaces teeth in three of the most often seen whales at Point Lobos.

The Whaling Station is the small building next to the Whalers Cabin Museum at Whalers Cove and is the only on-site whaling museum on the west coast. It documents the historic whaling activities at Point Lobos with displays of historic whaling equipment and exhibit panels describing the lives of the whalers and their families. Next to the museum, you can see two of the old try pots used to boil whale blubber and view parts of a Fin whale skeleton that are over 100 years old.

Portuguese whalers from the Azore Islands arrived at Point Lobos in 1861 and set up living quarters in the meadow at the southeast end of Whalers Cove.  Early industrial societies used whale oil widely in oil lamps and to make soap. With the commercial development of substitutes such as kerosene and vegetable oils, the use of whale oils declined considerably in the 20th century. With most countries having banned whaling, the sale and use of whale oil has practically ceased.

Whales are a unique resource of great aesthetic and scientific interest to mankind and are a vital part of the marine ecosystem;

whales have been overexploited by man for many years, severely reducing several species and endangering others;

the United States has extended its authority and responsibility to conserve and protect all marine mammals, including whales, out to a two hundred nautical mile limit.