A humpback whale exhibits surface "chomping"

Two humpbacks and more than 1000 dolphins

2017 10-28 SB Channel

There was a deep stratus layer that produced gray skies near the coast and then dropped to the ocean surface and resulted in nearly zero visibility as we got closer to Santa Cruz Island.  Captain Dave and the crew of the Condor Express kept a sharp eye out and resulted in sightings of 2 humpback whales and 1200 long-beaked common dolphins.  Not bad, given the conditions.

The first leg of the excursion took the Condor and its wildlife fans to the southeast, beyond the Carpinteria oil rig line.  The ocean surface here had a light chop.  Two humpback whales were sighted here.  One of them exhibited a rather uncommon behavior.  It “chomped” the air/sea interface and sent water streaming out of the corners of its mouth with its head mostly out of the water like a chin-slap.  Dave calls it jowl-snapping.  I call it chomping.  Neither of us know what the behavior is for since there is no evidence of prey species around when we see this happening.  One hypothesis is that it may be rinsing its baleen just as humans gargle or floss.

The next leg took us along the southeastern sea cliffs of Santa Cruz Island and around Potato Harbor and the eastern portion of Chinese Harbor.  Near the island, in the dense fog, the sea surface became mill pond flat and glassy.  As we left the island a mega-pod of dolphins was encountered.  Estimates of at least 1000 individuals were given to me, and the pod stretched out for almost a mile.

You never know what Mother Nature has in store.
Bob Perry
Condor Express

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