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4 Gray Whales and more

2016 12-30 SB Channel

The rain waited until we were back at the dock, but the rain cloud formations over the Santa Barbara Channel were spectacular.  The ocean surface was a tiny bit choppy leaving Santa Barbara Harbor but soon glassed-off completely.  Visibilities were great both topside and underwater.  You could see all 4 islands in the chain, and the dolphins were clear quite a ways down there.  Sightings for the day included 4 gray whales (more in the distance), 400 California sea lions, 2 Mola mola (ocean sunfish) and 300 long-beaked common dolphins.

We crossed the Channel and found our first 2 gray whales about 2 miles north of Santa Cruz Island in 50 –fathoms of water.  It was one large adult and one small whale, perhaps a yearling.  The adult had some nice sized spouts but the little whale was stealthy.  From this sighting we headed southwest until a second pair of gray whales was found just off the face of the Island.  All 4 whales were travelling at a steady, 4 knot, pace with 5 minutes down times.  Each took three to four breaths on the surface and down they went again.

Our next stop was the world-famous Painted Cave and a quick tour along the beautiful sea cliffs of Santa Cruz Island.  Not far outside the entrance to The Cave we encountered a mob of at least 400 California sea lions in tight formation.  When we arrived, only a handful were up on the surface.  Captain Dave reminded everyone that they dive and surface together.  Sure enough, within a few seconds the surface was a roiling mass of foam from all the animated pinnipeds.

On our way home we passed by two small, “dinner plate” sized Mola mola (ocean sunfish), and, later, a pod of around 300 dolphins found us.  Again, the water here was Santa Barbara cobalt blue and clear.  This made the dolphin sighting even more special.

You never know what Mother Nature has in store. Bob Perry Condor Express

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