2017 06-22 SB Channel
The saga continues – cetaceans are hot in the Channel. Captain Eric and his trusty deckhand/whale spotter, Steve, steered the Condor Express across the Santa Barbara Channel again today to the fertile whale grounds near Santa Cruz Island. Totals for the day included: 5 blue whales, 3 humpback whales and 1,500 long-beaked common dolphins. There was a low stratus layer with cool temperatures until we reached the Island. Here the skies were blue and the sun warmed everything. Contrary to the last two days, today the sea conditions were excellent with near zero wind and a few ripples on the surface.
One mile off the East Beach Anchorage a couple hundred dolphins were feeding, as they have been doing lately, on scattered patches of northern anchovies. Eric moved from patch to patch and everyone got to see the full repertoire of these marvelous animals, including speeding around, leaping, surfing wake, feeding upside down (right-side-up, too)and mating. We continued towards the Island.
South of offshore Platform “B” our first two humpback whales popped up to the surface about a half-mile apart. Again, the dolphins were feeding and now the birds joined in to make small hot spots. The humpbacks naturally honed-in on this activity and did some sub-surface feeding. About 500 additional dolphins were logged here.
The trek continued southward to the northbound Lane where keen-eyed Captain Eric announced that an additional large pod of common dolphins were surfing the wake waves of a large container cargo vessel that had passed in front of the Condor Express and was now more than a mile west of us. The dolphins rode the wake waves, leaped forward down the face, and then got airborne when the popped out the back to finish their ride. Of course, it was a short swim to the next wake wave in the line. What a great demonstration of agility and mastery of the environment this was!
As we approached Chinese “Harbor,” which is so large it is actually a “bay,” on beautiful Santa Cruz Island, a large spout ahead of the boat turned out to be another humpback whale on yesterday’s blue whale feeding grounds. Only one blue whale was on the old grounds and it dove deep almost immediately. Eric decided to move west. This strategy paid off. About 5 miles along the new route we found a zone with about 10 or 12 giant blue whales all around in the distance. We had time to watch 5 of the giants closely and it was spectacular. Another couple hundred dolphins were here too.
I must report a sighting that I made while looking through my telephoto lens and taking pictures of one of the giant blues. I’ve never seen nor heard of such a thing, but having studied Yoga when I was much younger, I was intrigued. The blue whale spouted out its left blowhole first, then, a second or two later, spouted out its right blowhole. At first I thought I was seeing two blue whales side-by-side. But, no, it was a single “pranayama” whale.
You never know what Mother Nature has in store.