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Calm seas and not so calm humpback whales

A close look at the famous Painted Cave on Santa Cruz Island – perhaps the world’s longest sea cave.

Veteran helmsman Captain Mat ran the Condor Express south to the mid-Channel buoy (called the “East Channel buoy” by NOAA). Just east of the buoy I saw the long, sleek back of a giant blue whale as it slipped beneath the waves never to be seen by us again, today on this boat. Strange. But it was not long after the blue whale, on a westerly heading, that we saw several big blasts on the water a mile or so ahead…a humpback whale was breaching. From a distance, it looked like somebody had dropped a house into the ocean. Of the eight humpback whales we found in this area, the first one was the master show off. Here’s the pattern: breach, dive, come up for air twice, breach, dive, and so forth. Then it “settled down” to a pattern of diving, breathing, rolling upside down and slapping its huge pectoral flippers on the water, in a repeating cycle. Other whales in the area took up the challenge and breached, tail lobbed and slapped their pectorals too, but nothing sustained like whale number one.

We then headed south towards the West End of Santa Cruz Island, in hopes of picking up more blue whales along the route. A few dolphin pods, yes, blue whales…not so much. We did have a great tour of the north face of Santa Cruz in almost mirror glass conditions. The winds outside the island, albeit moderate, were from the southwest and the island provided a perfect wind block as we headed down east to the Painted Cave. After a great visit to the cave in ideal conditions (see picture above) we slowly moved northward in the general direction of the harbor. Almost immediately the sharp eyes of Captain Mat spotted about a dozen magnificent Risso’s dolphins. Wow, they looked spectacular in the crystal clear water near the island.

A few more dolphins were encountered on the trip home.

I’ll post up the photos tomorrow

best regards Bob Perry Condor Express

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