2017 06-16 SB Channel
We experienced epic wildlife sightings today and closely watched 15 blue whales, 12 humpback whales, 10 long-beaked common dolphins and cruised by 14 ocean sunfish (Mola mola). As you will read below, the numbers do not tell the whole story. It was a warm, bright and sunny day with very light swells and winds…ideal for wildlife sightings.
Although we saw dolphins here and there all day, the pods were small. The first group, at 1020 am, was not too far offshore and consisted of a handful of upside-down, surface feeding dolphins. Western gulls circled close to the action, ready to pounce on the odd anchovy that got away. After this encounter, Captains Eric and Tasha ran a southern track towards the last known feeding grounds of the giant blue whales. Numerous flocks of sooty shearwaters were resting (and shedding feathers) together on the surface. An hour later we were watching the first of many giant blue whales. The first giant was long-winded and, in the end, stayed down 15 minutes and moved away from the area some 2 miles east while submerged. Whew!
By 1215 pm we had determined that the whales were not exactly where we left them yesterday. The next blue whale took one breath at the surface and dove. But by 1225 pm, Tasha had located multiple tall spouts to the east of us off Chinese Harbor, Santa Cruz Island.
A big tail fluke welcomed us to a blue whale hot spot. For the next hour and a half we watched whales all around us, some were in pairs, some were in trios and some were loners. There were definitely whales all around us. At 1245 pm, an adult humpback whale surfaced very close to the Condor Express…within a few dozen yards of our starboard pontoon. It stayed on the surface, breathing and showing off its whole, entire body, while slowly swimming off the bow of the boat. Spectacular!
Just after 100 pm it was time to head back to Santa Barbara Harbor. But ever-watchful Tasha stayed up on the flying bridge with binoculars. Just south of Platform Habitat, after we passed more than a dozen ocean sunfish (Mola mola) which were “Sea lion Frisbee” sized, she spotted a pair of humpback whales breaching side-by-side.
Captain Eric changed course and headed in the direction of the breachers. Out of the 12 or so humpbacks that turned up in this area, the breaching pair stole the limelight. Not only did the 2 synchronize their breaching, but the pair went on to throw their tails together, side-by-side, then rolled on their backs and slapped their pectoral fins, side by side. This dynamic dual display culminated with some more breaching by both individuals. Amazing!
You never know what Mother Nature has in store.