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Humpback whales in the wind and 2 hypotheses

2016 02-18 SB Channel

Captain Dave drove and, along with deck hand Auggie, found whales.   Tasha was busy downstairs, but found most of the whales yesterday. I took notes and photographs. As stated above, it was the usual strong west winds today that always follow a storm. Even a weak sauce storm like we had yesterday never disappoints when it comes to the winds that follow. It was not dangerous, in fact it was fun. It also brought out some interesting behavioral questions about humpback whales for budding marine mammalogists in need of good doctoral dissertation topics.

12noon It was very breezy during the entire trip but not much of a problem until we had to go home from The Flats and head into the seas all the way to Santa Barbara Harbor. It was rough conditions for spotting spouts, but we all know the sharp eyes of Auggie and Captain Dave. There was not much life of any kind until we were well out into The Flats, where things began by getting birdy, then we picked up some long-beaked common dolphins (50 were seen today), California sea lions were there and finally we reached a few northern anchovy hot spots that produced humpback whales. Although we watched 7 humpback whales today, there were more spouts in the area. Here’s the story and the hypotheses:

First hypothesis: humpback whales are more “active” in rough seas. We go for days without seeing tail throws, breaches and other similar behaviors from humpback whale in calm seas. Today it was rough and the whales responded.

We came up on the hot spots to find the whales feeding, some were even lunge feeding on the surface. Soon the whales dispersed, mostly moving slowly west, and some crossed in front of the Condor Express and we had great looks. Shortly thereafter the fun began. As if a switch was turned on, the whales began to slap their tails and breach, and we are talking about whales that were spread over many square miles of ocean. Second hypothesis: humpback whales slap their pectorals, throw tails and breach in response to other whales in the area. (This says nothing about “why”). If one goes off, another follows.

Next, as if the switch was turned off, the humpback whales went back to moving west.

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

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