Rollin’ with the Risso’s Dolphins

Bob PerryCalifornia gray whale, gray whale season, gray whales, Risso dolphins, Santa Barbara Channel, Santa Cruz Island, whale watching cruise

It was another spectacular “summer-like” day on the west and central Santa Barbara Channel.  Strong Santa Ana winds were blowing down east, but this only created a superior sunny, calm day for us departing from Santa Barbara.  After a smooth ride to the West End of Santa Cruz Island, the Condor Express gave all on board a great look at the world famous Painted Cave.  Upon exiting the Cave we ran west towards the Santa Cruz Channel (between Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa Island). All along the way we played with a huge and spread-out mass of at least 100 or so big, gray Risso’s dolphins.  Once we reached the SC Channel several whale spouts were spotted.  We ended up getting great looks at 4 gray whales today.  One made a very close approach to the ever-cautious and whale-friendly Condor.  This was a great sighting.  But the crowning moment of this magical trip was some inter-species interaction between the Risso’s dolphins and the gray whales.  We have seen this behavior at this time every year for the past 5 or 6 years.  It seems to occur right near the West End of Santa Cruz, for reasons unknown to humans.  But when the Risso’s approach and dive with the grays, the grays most regularly begin to roll around and expose their bellies and chubby pectoral fins.  A search of the literature makes mention only of “Risso’s bow riding gray whales on the migration route,”  yet we have been consistently seeing this rolling and tumbling interplay between the two kinds of cetaceans.

…another of Mother Nature’s mysteries, and always exciting to encounter….

See you on board soon…
Bob Perry
Condor Express