Kelping Day in the Santa Barbara Channel

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One of the many forms of "kelping" exhibited by humpback whales is to spy-hop while draped in giant kelp. --Santa Barbara Channel--

2020 11-20 SB Channel

Kelping Day in the Santa Barbara Channel.

Two island whale watching trips left the dock today, the first at 8am, the second at 1pm. Sea conditions were spectacular with a glassy ocean surface all day. A bit of patchy fog in the early morning gave way to sunny skies. Sightings included 12+ kelping humpback whales and 1000 long-beaked common dolphins.

The morning trip ran towards the eastern/middle of Santa Cruz Island. There was intermittent sun and fog at the start. About 4 or 5 miles north of Prisoner’s Harbor we spent a lot of quality time watching a spectacular display of kelping by two totally preoccupied whales. Episodes of kelping was punctuated by brief periods of logging. No patch of kelp was safe (there was more than usual adrift, perhaps dislodged by the recent king tides). The beasts methodically moved from one paddy to the next and seemed to be completely enthralled by rolling around in the brown sea weed. A large pod of dolphins came through the area and interacted a bit with the whales.

The western end of Santa Cruz Island was the target of the afternoon expedition. The action began 6 miles out from Santa Barbara Harbor with a nice pod of 200 or so dolphins that rode our bow, side and stern waves. As we reached a point 5 miles north of The Cave, two humpback whales were sighted from afar. On the scene, it quickly became evident that these were the same individual whales we spent time watching on the morning trip. They had moved 12 miles west in a couple of hours.

What completely took everyone by surprise, including Captain Dave who has worked on board the Condor Express since 2004, was that the two whales were still actively kelping!  But now their kelping behavior had blossomed to include rolling, spy-hopping and swimming upside down…all whale being draped in giant kelp. As before, the pair swam from kelp paddy to kelp paddy.  In the near distance additional spouts were spotted and Captain Dave moved the boat.

On the scene an additional 8 humpback whales were located (with additional spouts even further in the distance). AND ALL EIGHT OF THESE WHALES WERE BUSY KELPING TOO! That’s right. As unbelievable and mind-boggling as it may sound, it seems to be “Kelping Day” in the Santa Barbara Channel.  We were fortunate to have conducted two full tours and both enjoyed seeing this special display.

You never know what Mother Nature has in store.

Bob Perry
Condor Express, and
CondorExpressPhotos.com

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