The Condor ran three whale watching trips with calm, glassy seas today, with overcast, semi-foggy skies. A total of 9 gray whales were observed, some friendly, others a bit more secretive. The most eventful sighting was during the 9am adventure where we sighted a cow-calf pair not too far from SB Harbor. Upon arriving in the area near the two whales, it became apparent that one of them (we still do not know which one) was entangled in a long line of polyproplylene rope attached to a few styrofoam buoys. This was the kind of of line used on commercial lobster and crab traps. So the pair of whales traveled at a slow pace, dragging the rope and its float behind them. The danger of this kind of entanglement includes abrasion or possible infection of the tail stock region, or the possibility that the rope would become fouled in a kelp bed or boat propeller which would spell the worst for the whale. Also the energy drain on the whale as well as the limitations it imposed on maneuverability are considerations.
And so it was that Captain Dave, a fully trained and certified whale rescue man, made the appropriate calls to local whale rescue response teams. Response personnel from CIMWI (Channel Islands Marine and Wildlife Institute), Santa Barbara Mammal Center, and Sea World of the Pacific eventually arrived on two separate boats. Keeping track of the two whales was not an easy task with the grey skies and limited visibility, coupled with long down times and lack of a clear directional heading by the whales. For a while, Condor Captain Scott had stand his 6’4” frame atop the wheelhouse roof with binoculars to help keep us on track. The Condor stayed with the cow-calf pair for just over two hours until the first response boat arrived.
By this time, we were late getting our 9am trip back to Sea Landing and picking up our 12 noon passengers. But Captain Dave kept in contact with the entanglement response boats and after a while we learned that they never were able to initiate the rescue sequence and the elusive whales had disappeared in the fog.
Photos of the entangled cow-calf pair (prior to their disappearance) will be available for your viewing enjoyment sometime tomorrow.