2016 06-14 SB Channel
The Santa Barbara Channel was certainly rich with marine life and the Condor Express was there to watch today as we continue our epic string of big whale sightings. Captain Dave ran a southwesterly course towards the west end of Santa Cruz Island but never made it that far. We were stopped by two large hot spots full of animals, some common, some rarely seen. Sea conditions were calm in the northern Channel but developed a moderate bump as we moved towards The Lanes and beyond. The morning stratus burned off around noon and the sun shone brightly thereafter. The wildest sighting was of a large mako shark. Here are the trip details:
Our first and last sightings of the excursion were with a small group of about 20 long-beaked common dolphins. The morning group was swimming and jumping at a high speed and getting airborne a lot. The afternoon group was more fun and paid attention to their fans on the Condor Express. Shortly thereafter we encountered our first humpback whale north of The Lanes. The humpback did a whole bunch of tail throwing but stopped when we arrived in the vicinity then went about its business. It also breached in the distance after we had moved our attention (and camera lens) away. Around 1130 am Dave pointed out a large female elephant seal hanging motionless on the surface and we all got great looks until it sank into the deep.
When we passed into the separation zone of The Lanes spouts appeared all around us. At least a dozen of each, blue whales and humpbacks, were spouting on the surface mostly well off in the distance to the south. Here we watched a single humpback and a single blue whale for a while. After about three blue whale dive cycles we saw a breaching humpback south of The Lanes and moved to see all the life in that region. One whale led to another and before too long we had closely followed 6 more humpbacks and 4 more blue whales. It was a great show, but alas, it was time to set a course for home.
Not long after 200 pm, while Captain Tasha was at the helm, she spotted a large 10 – 12 foot long mako shark on the surface. The boat was slowly moved alongside this fearless fish and we remained with it for quite a long time as it finned slowly along the surface and finally turned and dove under the boat. This beast had enormous girth and showed no signs that the 85 foot catamaran was any threat to it.
You never know what Mother Nature has in store.