An exceptional killer whale encounter.

Bob Perrywhale watching california

A male killer whale in the Santa Barbara Channel from my 2015 files.

2021 12-22 Santa Cruz Island

Captain Devin did it again! He reports glassy ocean conditions and a fantastic killer whale encounter that essentially took the whole trip. Totals for the day included a fleeting look at 20 high-speed Dall’s porpoise and 11 killer whales (Orcinus orca) near Prisoner’s Harbor. Please read on…

Near the NOAA East Channel Buoy, a pod of Dall’s porpoise “flew” past the Condor Express leaving nothing but their characteristic rooster-tail wake waves. Devin then turned east and soon found a group of 5 killer whales which our deckhand (naturalist, photographer, drone pilot and all-around nice guy) Adam identified as part of the CA 51 matriline. It was a “jaw-dropping” encounter which began (and ended) with a practice (?) hunt of a single California sea lion. The pinniped was not wounded or killed. The group included a small calf.

After quite a while, the original 5 Orcas were joined by 6 additional members of their matriline. Many of the amazing behaviors observed at the start of the sighting continued after the group size enlarged.

Here are some of the things reported to me by the crew:  a continued practice (?) assault on a sea lion; multiple prolonged “muggings” of the boat including a killer whale stare-down with all 5 of the original animals floating motionless with heads up and eyes focused on the boat; rolling around in our jet wash (jets put out water continually); upside down “back stroke” swim using pectoral fins only to paddle along the surface; a calf riding on top of an adult (mother?); a complete 360° aerial back flip; and, several whales on the surface taking-in and expelling seawater from their collective mouths to create “chorus” of fart sounds (sorry, but that’s what I was told).

I’m sure Adam will be posting some of his usual excellent photography soon across our social media platforms. Maybe he has a soundtrack?

You never know what Mother Nature has in store.
Bob Perry
Condor Express, and
CondorExpressPhotos.com