Hot spot hopping in the Santa Barbara Channel.
Winds and warnings were up for the west end of the Channel today which kind of dictated Captain Dave’s course. He wisely opted out of beating up the people in heavy seas for the possibility of finding yesterday’s whales up near San Miguel Island. Instead he went “hot spot hopping.” Now this strategy involves steering the Condor Express to each and every hot spot, or area with birds crashing and dolphins feeding. Lately many of these hot spots have attracted the attention of hungry humpback whales that join in the banquet.
So it was that we traveled west towards UCSB along the beach, then south to the mainland shelf break, then eastward as far as Rincon Point. What made this tour of the Channel possible was the high speed of the Condor Express, what caused it to happen (besides the rough weather outside) was the fact that none of the forty or fifty hot spots yielded a single humpback whale. All totaled we probably watched 3,000 or 4,000 common dolphins feeding along with sooty shearwaters, elegant terns, Heermann’s gulls, western gulls, brown pelicans and, on occasion, a Brandt’s cormorant.
The tour of the Channel was spectacular. Skies were partly cloudy with sunny spots. The water was blue, and the closer to shore we ran, the more glassy and calm the ocean became. We also stopped on several large ocean sunfish (Mola mola), and saw perhaps 10 of the beasts during the hopping. But the real gem and most unusual and special sighting came towards the end of the trip in a big hot spot off Rincon Point, east of Platform Hogan.
Mixed in with all the feeding dolphins and birds we saw two nice Minke whales. The popped up here and there and a few times came up very close to the Condor Express. It was one of the best Minke whale sightings of the year…breathtaking in the blue water and sunny skies.
I’ll post up the photos tomorrow to http://www.CondorExpressPhotos.com
Thanks for reading!
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