SF Bay Whale Watching - San Francisco Bay Area Whale Watching and Gulf of the Farallones Tours
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San Francisco Bay Whale Watching

The Farallon Islands


 

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Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary

The Farallon Islands are located 27 miles west of San Francisco, in the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. The islands support a spectacular assemblage of wildlife including nearly ΒΌ million seabirds such as the common murre, Cassin's auklet, and tufted puffin. During late spring and summer, seabirds use the islands for breeding, nesting, and raising their chicks. The Farallones also are important habitat for thousands of seals and sea lions that use the islands for breeding and resting.

The waters surrounding the islands, the setting and focal point of our ecology adventure tours, are among the richest on Earth and provide important habitat for many species of porpoises and dolphins, including harbor porpoise, Pacific white-sided dolphin, and Dall's porpoise. The islands also serve as migratory destinations (and/or stops along migration routes) for many species, including the great white shark and whales, such as the orca or killer whale, the gray whale, and the endangered humpback and blue whales. Given appropriate sea conditions, our day-long adventure allows us to explore not only the islands, but also the deeper ocean waters west of the Farallones, near the edge of the continental shelf.

 


SF Bay Whale Watching Farallon Islands

SF Bay Whale Watching Farallones Arches

SF Bay Whale Watching Farallon Islands by Ed Estes

 
 
 
 

History of the Islands

   

The Native American Coastal Miwoks called the Farallons the "islands of the dead," because they believed they visited the islands in spirit only. Their fragile boats, crafted of tule reeds, could not make it through the rough seas to the islands, which they could see on clear days, but legend has it that they sent their dead, wrapped in the tule reeds, to the islands of the spirits. The Farallons have also been called "the Galapagos of central California." Because of the spectacular seasonal displays of richness and abundance, wildlife observations here are equal to those anywhere on our planet.

From the first known visit by Europeans, Sir Francis Drake's landing in 1579, the Farallons were exploited by humans for centuries. First, passing ships would replenish their stores with seal meat and seabird eggs from the islands. Later, both American and Russian seal hunters arrived, decimating the population of fur seals. When Alta California became part of the U.S., in 1848, the Farallons became an important part of the City of San Francisco (and the islands are still officially inside the city limits). A lighthouse was built in 1853 and, as San Francisco grew, enormous numbers of seabird eggs (at one point, half a million every month,) were taken to feed the hungry new citizens.

   
Conservation  
The depredation continued, until the island began to be protected by the United States, starting with a 1909 executive order by Theodore Roosevelt. In 1969, all of the Farallons were included in the newly-designated National Wildlife Refuge. Today, the only human residents of these 90-million-year-old rocks are researchers from the Point Reyes Bird Observatory. These scientists continually conduct studies to help answer important questions about this complex ecosystem and its seabirds, sharks, and marine mammals. SF Bay Whale Watching Farallon Islands
SF Bay Whale Watching - San Francisco Bay Area Whale Watching and Gulf of the Farallones Tours, Excursions and Trips

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