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An all time epic “killer” day in the Santa Barbara Channel

Killer day in the Santa Barbara Channel

Killer Whale Spy Hop photo: Bob Perry

An all time epic or “killer” day in the Santa Barbara Channel

As the Condor Express headed south out of Santa Barbara Harbor we were met with a mill pond flat glass sea surface, no wind and long sleeve tee shirt weather.  The water was clear and blue, and the above water vistas were very nice with a tiny bit of haze in the distance.

All this made it nice for the sharp eyeballs of our Captain Dave and our colleague Bernardo spot what at first appeared to be numerous spouts several miles ahead of the boat.  Through the binoculars, it was determined that this was an especially large pod of Biggs killer whales, which is why I called this a “killer day.”  The story unfolds like this:

The Orcas were circling a few medium sized drifting paddies of detached giant kelp or Macrocystis.  There were at least 2 nice sized males in the group, and several very small juveniles…one of which was VERY VERY tiny.  There was a lot of spy hopping going on, as well as lob tailing, tail throwing, breaching and upside down swimming.  After a closer look at the kelp paddies we saw a small Pacific harbor seal trying to camouflage itself in the algae.  But the keen senses of the hungry predators knew the score.

For nearly an hour and fifteen minutes the pod would fan out a little, come together a little, and swim between the kelp and the Condor Express.  Several swam alongside under water, and one big male came directly at the boat, then dove under as it let loose a big spout that got everyone on that side of the boat wet.  The big boy appeared to “know” what it was doing.

After a while the pod moved away from the kelp, and we saw the harbor seal in the middle of the whales.  There was a lot of tail slapping and charging, but for at least 30 minutes, my best guess was that this was some kind of a training or practice kill, perhaps showing the young whales some tricks.  In the end, there was no more harbor seal and the gulls started picking at the water, although there was no blood or guts visible.

We left this magnificent killer whale show behind and continued onward to Santa Cruz Island.

At the island we watched 3 or 4 gray whales, and a small number of Risso’s dolphins.  We penetrated the famous Painted Cave, then it was time to head back to the harbor.

It was an epic or “killer” day in the Santa Barbara Channel.

I’ll post up the photos as soon as I can.  Probably Jan. 2 or 3.

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