2017 09-09 SB Channel
It was calm, sunny and beautiful in our portion of the Santa Barbara Channel. Sightings were phenomenal and included: 5 inshore bottlenose dolphins, 450 long-beaked common dolphins, 3 blue whales, 7 offshore bottlenose dolphins and 1,000 short-beaked common dolphins. Per usual, the fact that we closely watched 5 different species of cetacean alone does not do justice to the excursion.
10:10 am. As we left Santa Barbara Harbor and looked slightly to the left, a small pod of inshore bottlenose dolphins were located. Captain Dave and his crew stayed with these magnificent animals for a great sightings encounter during which time the dolphins came over and rode the bow of the Condor Express a few times.
10:20 am. A small pod of about 50 short-beaked common dolphins located the Condor Express and also rode our bow, side and stern waves. A few calves were riding along with the adults. Dave set a southwesterly course for the west end of Santa Cruz Island.
11:15 am. A larger pod of short-beaked common dolphins found us. This group had a more than 100 individuals…riding our waves, of course.
11:45 am. About 4 miles north of the west end deck hand Eric spotted a large area of surface turmoil which turned out to be a mega-mob of at least 1,000 California sea lions. Most were sub-adult males and also females. They were first spotted as a “stampede,” similar to that of common dolphins. On closer inspection though they were brown and furry (and were not dolphins). It is uncommon to see these mega-mobs, but is sure is fun.
12 noon. A single giant blue whale was located about 1 mile south of The Lanes. It was an especially nice whale to watch as it had much more “up” time than “down.”
12:50 pm. A small pod of offshore bottlenose dolphins were intercepted as we followed the blue whale. As far as offshore’s go, these were calm and sedentary. There were no leaps, breaches, twists, end-over-ends, or high speeds involved today.
1:00 pm. A second giant blue whale was found and we had great looks.
1:05 pm. The third giant blue whale won the grand prize today because throughout the sighting this beast was “racing.” When I’ve seen racing during past seasons, it was associated with two or more animals chasing each other at high speeds. Today’s whale was moving west all alone at a high speed. (We clocked it at over 10 knots for 20 minutes. When its spoon-shaped head broke the surface much of the rostrum and mouth were visible. And since the animal was headed west, into the on-coming wind and seas, the ocean waves sent spray up into the air from the head upon surfacing. Very special!
1:30 pm. On the way home Eric located a huge megapod of short-beaked common dolphins. When the megapod arrived, individuals were seen getting airborne all over the zone. In addition, several animals were tail-walking. Very very special.
You never know what Mother Nature has in store.