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Hammerhead Shark joins the Mammals

Thursday, August 18, 2016 –  Among all the mammal sightings the highlight of the trip turned out to be a fish.  A 7-foot long hammerhead shark was located on the surface in glassy and sunny conditions as we traveled back to Santa Barbara from the Painted Cave on Santa Cruz Island.  Additional sightings included 3 humpback whales, 2 Minke whales, 1 Mola mola (ocean sunfish), several hundred pelagic red crabs, at least 3,000 long-beaked common dolphins and a couple hundred California sea lions.  Third Captain and deckhand Tasha made most of the sightings today.  Here are the details:

Not far offshore the first batch of a hundred or more dolphins found the Condor Express.  These little cetaceans got great looks at the boat and their loyal fans on board.  There was a lot of surface feeding going on with upside-down dolphins racing around catching northern anchovies.  The glassy and sunny conditions mentioned above stayed throughout the entire excursion.  The dolphins were joined by a few dozen California sea lions and one large Minke whale.

Our next hot spot was about 15 minutes later when we were approximately 8 miles out from the harbor.  This was another feeding aggregation of dolphins and sea birds.  The birds here were mostly elegant terns and black-vented shearwaters.  Among the many sea lions observed at this location was a curious medium-large male with the crested head who swam close to the boat and looked us over.

Fifteen minutes later we were again being mugged by dolphins.  A second Minke whale was on patrol here as well.  Dave continued on his southerly course heading, and soon came upon a large ocean sunfish or Mola mola.  At this point Tasha had located large spouts ahead and it was not long before we found a very large, spread-out hot spot full of more than a thousand dolphins.  Three humpback whales popped up in this region.  Two were excellent flukers and none had a long down time.  All this took place just on the edge of the northbound Lane.

Our next attraction was the west end of Santa Cruz Island where Dave ran along the sea cliffs from Ruby Rock to Blimp Hangar.  Of course we went into the mouth of the world famous Painted Cave and were pleasantly surprised to find hundreds of pelagic red crabs in the antechamber of the Cave, on the surface and in bright sunny waters.

The ride home was equally full of dolphin herds, but as you know, they were quickly upstaged by the presence of a hammerhead shark on the surface.  This was a very cooperative shark, and, when matched up with Dave’s professional boat  handling skills, gave everyone a spectacular and lengthy sighting.  You can see this shark in the attached photograph.

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

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