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Island Cave Waterfall is flowing! Plus lunge-feeding humpbacks, thousands of dolphins.

(Above: The famous Painted Cave waterfall of Santa Cruz Island)

2022 12-08 SB Channel

Early blue skies gave way to a partly cloudy afternoon. Seas were calm and not much of a breeze wafted on occasion. Sightings were phenomenal: 3 humpback whales (seen twice), 2500 long-beaked common dolphins and 25 California sea lions.

All of the action was near the coast and no more than 5 miles offshore. We watched the same wonderful phenomena in the morning and, again, on the way home. In between these coastal hot spot viewings, Captain Dave crossed the Channel for some very nice island sights.

To start things off a feeding mega pod of 2500 or more dolphins, stretched over 2 miles of water, attracted countless hungry seabirds, a few sea lions and 3 feeding humpback whales. This was a great ocean hot spot with balls of northern anchovies up and on the surface. The 3 whales consisted of a mother with a very mature “calf,” and, about a mile away, a third humpback that joined the group.

There were numerous dramatic surface lunge-feeding episodes, mostly straight up, except for a few side lunges especially by the calf. The calf also rolled upside down, slapped its pectoral fins and was nearly always active. The three whales joined together on several occasions for a coordinated group surface lunge…once very close to the Condor Express.

After a long visit on this hot spot, as mentioned above, Dave took everyone on a nice tour of the northern sea cliffs of Santa Cruz Island. Seas were calm near the island so Dave was able to put the boat into the first chamber of The Cave. As a huge bonus: the recent rains were sufficient to get the PAINTED CAVE WATERFALL flowing…always a great sight…and not often seen during a La Nina. Deckhand Devin, known for his amazingly sharp eyes, saw two spouts a few miles away from The Cave, but despite our best searching, we never located them. Were these more humpbacks? … or possibly southbound gray whales?

On the way home we found the morning hot spot again, and the dolphin masses, birds and whales were still there. The calf was lunge-feeding…still.

You never know what Mother Nature has in store.

Bob Perry

Condor Express, and

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