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A different kind of “epic” story today

A full grown humpback whale spouts into the breeze as its 40+ foot body is obscured by the heavy seas. photo: Bob Perry

A different kind of “epic” story today

After a week of epic sightings with mirror glass, hot, Santa Ana conditions that brought air temps in Santa Barbara to near the century mark, we had a different kind of “epic” story today.  Although it was a nice, calm Springtime day in town, things changed dramatically once we were 5 or so miles offshore.  Here we encountered a moderately heavy breeze and some swells from the big winds that were blowing all night in the western end of the Santa Barbara Channel.  It was so exhilarating to feel the strong sea breeze on your face and watch the spray fly off the tops of the mountainous swells.  Many people never get to experience these highly sensory conditions, and those that do probably did not have the  added bonus of lots and lots of cetaceans enjoying the environment even more than we did.

After a brief stop at the outer harbor entrance buoy to have a Kodak moment with the California sea lions (including a young male), it was not long thereafter that we found ourselves in the first of two large herds of long beaked common dolphins.  We stayed and played with these smaller cetaceans for a while then pushed further out into the Channel.  We quickly got located on a mother and calf gray whale migrating northbound, and it was fun to see the little youngster alongside mom…even this late into the season.  (Whale census experts have called this year’s gray whale the largest population of newborns in at least 30 years).  Wind and seas were still quite calm.

Onward we went in search of the bigger varieties of marine mammals, and Captain Dave steered a course for the feeding grounds.  On our way across the Channel to the grounds, the wind and seas kicked up as previously described above.  However the spouts from the abundant humpback whales were easy to spot as their “smoke” was whipped up by the breeze.  We watched at least 7 humpbacks closely today and a minimum of 5 more came by the Condor Express but were heading west, directly into the oncoming seas.  We stayed with our 7 and had an epic day.  There were 2 mother and calf humpbacks in the group, and with the heavy seas and winds, it was spectacular to see these beasts pushing ahead, spout spray flying, as they busted through the swells and sometime got their snouts out of the water on the backside of the swells.  Two different humpbacks breached a few times, which was exceptionally dramatic given the wild winds and bright sunlight.

On our way home we encountered our second large pod of long beaked common dolphins and rode along with them as they were heading west towards Santa Barbara Harbor.  This was a nursery pod and it seems like every fourth or fifth adult was riding with a small one.  The blue water and much calmer conditions near the shore, along with the great sunshine, made the dolphin show very very nice.

What a day!

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

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