2015 08-10 SB Channel
Flat, gorgeous sea conditions with no wind at all until after 100pm, and a marine layer that went away with the wind to reveal hot sunny skies, provided the backdrop for our excursion today. First, the totals: 12 humpback whales with many more spouts all around, 2,000 long-beaked common dolphins, 500 short-beaked common dolphins, and 1 big elephant seal. Now the details:
Our first #whale sighting came around 1040am when we were about 6 miles southeast of Santa Barbara. This whale had short down times, fluked-up on every dive, and passed close to the Condor Express on several occasions. It spent time working areas rich with black-vented shearwaters and long-beaked common dolphins.
Moving further southeast, 1115am found us in the northbound lane with a second humpback whale. This one had opposite behavior patterns from its predecessor, with very long down times and short surface intervals. It was not too showy with its tail, but did have one nice bonus feature – it did a short stint at kelping (playing with a giant kelp paddy on the surface). We proceeded southeast.
at 1150am Captain Eric thought he saw a large sea lion on the surface. Closer examination revealed that it was a large elephant seal, perhaps an adult female or sub-adult male. Most of the time we get a short glimpse of these huge pinnipeds when we find them in the middle of the Santa Barbara Channel like this, but today we watched and were able to get quite close to the beast for some great photo opps. A few minutes after leaving the elephant seal we came across a 500-individual pod of short-beaked common dolphins, a species we do not see very often in the west Channel, but we were now technically in the eastern end of the region.
At 1205pm we were in the southbound lane watching 9 humpback whales with more spouts all around us in the distance. A large container ship, “Tokyo Express,” was bearing down on us from about a mile away. Captain Eric reached them on the VHF and explained we were stopped and watching whales. The Tokyo Express captain responded by slightly altering his course and cleared our location by at least a half mile. Once again the AIS and VHF may have helped save whales.
At 100pm we started a great tour of the sea cliffs and caverns along the western end of Santa Cruz Island including a nice penetration into the mouth of the world famous Painted Cave. After this island portion of the trip we started back across the Channel towards Santa Barbara.
Around 140 pm, again crossing the southbound lane, we watched our 12th #whale and about 500 more long-beaked common #dolphins. What a day !
You never know what Mother Nature has in store.