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El Niño and Humpback Whales

2015 10-08 SB Channel

Captain Dave was barely 20 minutes out of Santa Barbara Harbor when our world-famous “ojos del águila” deckhand Auggie spotted the first of 6 humpback whales we’d visit with today. It was an adult whale and hard to keep up with as it was moving fast to the south. Fifteen minutes later we found out why as humpbacks were coming together from distances far and wide to get on a very active hot spot full of northern anchovies. The bait fish were on the surface and before long we witnessed several of the whales surface lunge feeding.   Mixed in the hot spot were the usual suspects:   long-beaked common dolphins (we had about 600 today), California sea lions, and various sea birds such as brown pelicans, gulls and black-vented shearwaters. It was an utterly fun pandemonium.   Organized chaos. Oh, and did I mention that there were at least 2 Minke whales also feeding on this hot spot?

Around an hour later the bait had diffused and all the activity shut down like somebody flipped a switch. Captain Dave took us south towards The Ledge and Santa Cruz Island. It was very calm and glassy all morning and El Niño brought us 71°F surface temperatures as well as that super-clear Santa Barbara cobalt water. Several of the previous humpback whales as well as the next two which I will describe for you made friendly approaches to the boat. Due to the El Niño water, one could see the entire body of the whale while it was still underwater. El Niño and humpback whales. What a great combo.

Later in the trip Captain Dave and Auggie located 2 additional whales which gave us a total of 6 today.   One was friendly and made a long, slow, very close pass down our starboard side. It was an epic El Niño day.

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

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