2017 11-18 SB Channel
It was a bright and sunny day with just enough of a breeze to add loads of sparkle to the ocean surface for great silhouette photography. Captain Dave and his crew located 9* humpback whales and approximately 3,000 long-beaked common dolphins. The first word that comes to mind is “spectacular.”
Dave pointed the mighty Condor Express at the western end of Santa Cruz Island and ran for about an hour until our first marine mammal sighting. At 1115 my wife, Suellen, located two nice spouts and the first two humpback whales of the day were soon being closely watched. The pair was friendly and made a couple of close approached to the boat.
During this sighting, a megapod of long-beaked common dolphins containing over 2000 individuals (estimated) passed by the boat heading east. We were following whales headed west at the time. Dave took a dolphin-encounter break at 1145 from whale watching and quickly caught up with the dolphins. Fabulous looks at huge numbers of little cetaceans were had. We were north of the west end of Santa Cruz Island at the time. During the dolphin encounter the entire herd went abruptly from swimming east to swimming west. We followed them back where we started from near the whales.
By 1225 a second pair of whales was on the surface and gave us great looks. At that point, all 4 whales exhibited long dive times, perhaps feeding extensively deep beneath the surface. Fluking-up was common.
1245 – Dave took us on one of his famous narrated tours of the western Santa Cruz Island sea cliffs and a look inside the world-famous Painted Cave. His talk included the paleontology, geology and current environmental considerations of this, the largest of all 8 southern California islands.
By 110 I had luckily spotted a few spouts in the distance which tuned out to be a tight pack of 4 humpback whales. *Were these the same 4 whales we watched earlier in the trip? We were not sure. The 4 whales seen during this sighting were animated and showed some nice behaviors as well as vocalizations. There were several head-lifts and chin-slaps by one large whale. Another whale rolled over on its side a couple of times. Some racing around was also seen, and two whales set out some loud trumpet blows. A second large pod of dolphins swam through the zone and we waited for some whale-dolphin interaction, but the whales dove under the dolphins and no thrilling action was seen.
130 - Another solo whale came into view to the west of our location but we did not have time to go over and watch it.
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Humpback tail flukes. From the HappyWhale database: Stump, CRC-12083 has been known since 2005, appearing to be a yearling when first photographed during the SPLASH project, and has been seen many times since by Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary naturalists. Thought to be a female, she was seen with a calf in 2013 and 2014, thought to be mother of Top Notch.