Our lucky Mola mola.
Conditions were outstanding in the Santa Barbara Channel today….very calm seas, nearly zero wind and a thin overcast ceiling above. Although we did have some interaction with a scattered and small group of short beaked common dolphins on our way south to the feeding grounds, things were otherwise very quiet in terms of cetacean sightings. About 45 minutes later, after passing through the commercial shipping lanes, we came upon a jumbo sunfish (or Mola mola) finning along on the surface. This beast was very cooperative and provided great looks: left profile, right profile, and looking straight down on the dorsal fin. A young sea lion made a half-hearted attempt to chase the Mola, and the artful and beguilingfish took shelter near one of our hulls. Not long after our interaction with what I call our “lucky Mola mola,” the big switch in the sky controlling the large cetaceans was turned on and the rest of the day was off the charts. The totals were at least 12 humpbacks (with many more spouts in the area), 3 giant blue whales (more spouts to the east and southeast), and a second herd of common dolphins…this time long beaks. The first good sized flocks of sooty shearwaters appeared on the feeding grounds today as well.
One gluttonous humpback fed on the surface, lunging sideways and straight up, to gobble massive amounts of krill. This went on for at least 30 minutes…and was still happening as we slowly pulled away to visit a nice cluster of 4 more humpbacks together. These 4 turned out to be friendly to a fault. They came close, spy hopped, ran under the boat, along both sides of the boat, and pestered their human admirers like crazy. After a long time enjoying these “friendlies,” we tried to slowly pull away to go look at some blue whales nearby, but the 4 humpbacks acted like stray dogs that had just been given a treat…and actually followed the Condor Express, turning when we turned, etc. attempting to continue their people-watching session. The blue whales were, of course, massive and one showed its mighty tail fluke on a deep dive. All this good stuff that happened after the lucky Mola mola went on in the middle of an area where many multiple humpback whales were breaching in some kind of hidden synchrony. The left whale breached, then the right whale…and on and on. Another frisky humpback lobbed tail on the water at least 30 times in a row. Somebody passed out the checklist of the humpback repertoire today and the whales obliged…once the switch was activated out past our jumbo sunfish.
You never know what Mother Nature has in store.