4 gray whales = 2 moms with calves ! Plus 2 kinds of dolphins, and more.
45 Malibu High School biology students collected data and had some great sightings today on both the 9am and 12 noon adventures. Captain Dave and the crew of the Condor Express headed west on the morning trip. Although the winds were still a bit brisk, the skies were very bright and sunny and up in Goleta Bay we had a magical encounter. There were 20 coastal bottlenose dolphins all milling around the boat and it looked to many of us like they were down on the bottom (only 17 feet down there) digging around for food. They sent up some big mud and silt plumes and caused the water to turn brown instead of blue as they foraged. Several of them came near the boat to give us great looks, and one of the big gray dolphins was a bit of a show-off and kept doing some partial side-ways breached. Dave also took us up the coast past Elwood to the cormorant nesting pilings and up close to one of the numerous natural gas bubble holes in the area. On the way back to the harbor we encountered a very small pod of 6 long beaked common dolphins and Dave skillfully steered the boat into position to make another good sighting. There were brown, furry California sea lions all over the Channel today, and one pacific harbor seal near the kelp up past Hope Ranch. (Another seal was hauled out on the bait barge inside the Harbor when we got back).
Later, on the noon trip the Condor Express headed the opposite direction and rode with the winds and swells down to the east. It was still very sunny and warm, and the seas were becoming calmer as the trip progressed. Before long deckhand and second captain Eric got us situated on the first of two pairs of gray whale mothers and calves. This first pair was traveling pretty far offshore for this time of year…perhaps 3/4th of a mile or so. Again, great looks at the mom and her baby. As the seas got really nice and calm at the end of the noon trip, the boat headed back to the west and before long we had our second mother and calf gray whale duo. These two were equally awesome to watch.
All in all it was a splendid day for student research observations and the many many other international passengers that were on board had lots of fun too.
We run tomorrow ant 9am and 12 noon for sure, and check the Landing office about the status of the 3pm trip.
You never know what Mother Nature has in store.