1 gray whale
2 humpback whales*
3 blue whales*
1 minke whale*
2,000+ common dolphins
1 ocean sunfish (Mola mola)
50+ California sea lions
(* = more seen in the area)
We had good lateral visibility under a marine layer of clouds today. Nary a breath of wind to be had, and thus the ocean surface was pretty much sheet glass most of the morning. Upon leaving Santa Barbara Harbor, and a quick visit to the California sea lions on the entrance buoy, the keen eyes of deck hand Eric spotted a spout a few hundred yards ahead…right off the shore. Of all things, IT TURNED OUT TO BE A NORTHBOUND GRAY WHALE !! Today is July 5, 2013…certainly the latest I’ve ever seen a gray whale. Most of this whale’s family have long left the Channel and have not been seen of heard from since mid-May. Let’s have a round of applause for Eric’s eyes and the bell shaped curve of biology. We stayed with this gray whale for a while and got great looks and good photographs. It was not a full grown gray, but certainly not a newborn or a calf of any sort. After the gray whale shocker we pushed south towards Santa Cruz Island.
Our next stop was out near the NOAA East Channel Buoy (which is really located in the mid-Channel, oh well) were we found a nice humpback whale that gave us good tail flukes and short down times. As usual it was mixed in with several large pods of long beaked common dolphins. So within the first hour of the trip we had three different species of cetacean and the day was still young. Oops! Here comes a minke whale to join in this small hot spot. There may have been two minkes, but let’s call it one for sure. After enjoying the dolphins and the single humpback, Captain Dave caught another spout out of the corner of his eagle eyes and thus he got the boat situated on another single humpback whale…with pure white pectoral fins. Old whitey-pects was pretty much all business, heading southwest, but at one point came up next to the Condor Express. At first we thought it was coming up right next to the port side, but it turned out to be a large, very photogenic ocean sunfish. Don’s look too long ant the Mola, because then the knobby headed beast swam slowly about 5 feet off the starboard side of the boat, then it rolled upside down and slid under the bow. The water was clear and the view was spectacular. It was a short and sweet mugging.
Dave then pushed on to the Painted Cave on Santa Cruz Island, and from there he set a course for the location where the blue whales have been found the past two days, off the west end of the island near the southbound shipping lane. Sure enough, we soon had our fourth species of cetacean and third species of whale…at least 3 and probably more giant blue whales were just where Dave thought he’d find them. It was a brilliant sighting and the last encounter of a real magical day.
My camera trigger finger is currently in an ice bath.
I’ll post up the photos sometime tomorrow