Tie score: Mysticetes 2 vs Odontocetes 2.
Although there were rumors of both Risso’s dolphins and Minke whales in the Channel today, we did not see either of those two species, and so the final score card was a tie. There was a light chop and breeze plus overcast skies as we left Santa Barbara Harbor for the mid Channel buoy area this morning. It became a little bit choppier and breezier the farther we went offshore. On our way we passed through two nice feeding areas with common dolphins (score one for odontocetes) and sea birds. We also stopped on a medium large ocean sunfish or Mola mola.
Not too far offshore we got a call from one of our colleagues about a pair of humpback whales to be found east of Platform Hogan, down near the western boundary of the Ventura Flats. It was an 11 mile run to the east, but as we made the trip we passed into the lovely glassy waters of the east Channel climate zone. Sure enough, there was a mother humpback whale and her calf in calm blue water….although it was still overcast. (Score one for the mysticetes). Mom and calf actually sauntered around the area with plenty of rest stops where the whales, especially the large female, would “log” or remain fairly motionless on the surface for many minutes at a time. During these logging periods for mom, junior would continue to dive and swim and generally explore the area. Twice the two animals swam close to the Condor Express and dove under us…a great sight in the clear water.
After sufficient time with this cow-calf pair, Captain Mat headed for the east end of Santa Cruz Island. This plan quickly changed as we received another report, this time about possible blue whales down towards the west end of SCI. One thing about the Condor Express: we have the power and the speed to make these treks from one end of the Channel to the other relatively quickly. So within a half hour we found ourselves in very sunny conditions with blue skies, blue water and blue whales. (Score is now two for mysticetes). After various dive times ranging from 5 minutes to 12 minutes, we got good looks at a total of five blue whales. Their sleek turquoise color when seen beneath the cobalt blue ocean was spectacular and made these beasts easy prey for the many digital cameras on board today.
I did forget one detail. As we made our high speed run from the east to find the blue whales, Captain Mat put us on a large pod of at least 25 offshore bottlenose dolphins. (Score another odontocete). These large dolphins came over and paid us a visit. A few rode the bow. A few others jumped over the wake. Wow, they are so large compared to the little common dolphins we see all the time. It was a great sighting and a rare treat to cross paths with these offshores.
So although the score card was a dead even tie, the real winners were us humans who had the good forturne of being on board today. It was epic.
I’ll post the photos sometime tomorrow. www.CondorExpressPhotos.com
Speaking of tomorrow, don’t forget our whale watch is from 1pm – 530pm…a special afternoon schedule.
Condor Express Odd Jobs