Ocean Vistas and Exceptional Dolphins
The remnants of an equatorial tropical storm brought spectacular oceanic and sky conditions to the Santa Barbara Channel today. It was one of “those days” that was such a sensory overload it was hard to absorb it all. The air was very warm and soft with moisture. The Channel views were enormous – from the Point Mugu sandslide to the east, to near Point Conception to the west. Anacapa Island, Santa Cruz Island and Santa Rosa Island were all clearly visible. The ocean surface ran from total mirror glassy smooth to being dappled like the outer skin of an orange peel. Blue reigned supreme.
Captain Dave and the crew ran south towards the last known location of our pals, the humpback mother and calf that have been entertaining all their fans for the past month. Lately, however, the two have been moving around the Channel and finding them has been like looking for a needle in a big blue haystack. After a quick search of this location and under the previously mentioned conditions of great visibility (under the water and above, by the way), the “word” came across the VHF radio about the possibility of larger species with a blue color far to the east. Away we went.
Using the high speed and smooth ride of the mighty Condor Express, we embarked on the next leg of a Channel exploration that would end up with a total of more than 80 miles by the end of the day. Along the route, numerous pods of long beaked common dolphins were watched. Given the extreme clarity of the ocean and wonderful bright skies, seeing these frisky cetaceans feeding upside down, many with tiny calves, all of them enjoying the wave riding, added a submerged depth to the already gorgeous experience of the day. By the end of the trip at least 1,500 common dolphins were watched.
Far to the east, above the Hueneme submarine canyon, a large herd of Risso’s dolphins came into view. These larger beasts were also wave riding as they glowed brightly beneath the surface. Several surfaced right next to the Condor Express as all of us got to go eyeball-to-eyeball with them. There were young Risso’s in the group, but not “babies.”
Not finding larger cetaceans as reported, Captain Dave ran along the submerged canyon edge as it pointed out towards Santa Cruz Island. A nice cruise along the northeast face of this big island offered great views of its features and harbors, now dotted with many small boats spending the Labor Day weekend offshore.
The return trip to Santa Barbara featured more common dolphins, sooty shearwaters and more and more great views of the thunder clouds welling up above the Santa Ynez Mountains from the subtropical moisture.
This was one of those rare days that we get only a few times a year. It was a privilege to be there with a camera. I’ll post the photos sometime this weekend after I come down to earth.
Bob Perry – Condor Express