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Kelping Continues

2016 04-13 SB Channel

The Condor Express left the docks twice today and saw almost the same identical things on both excursions:  2,000 long-beaked common dolphins and 12 humpback whales with more in the area.  The morning trip also played around with 10 or 12 Pacific white-sided dolphins just outside the harbor breakwater.  For those of you that like details, here they are:

9 am Right outside Santa Barbara Harbor we encountered a small feeding group of Pacific white-sided dolphins (Lags) and Captain Dave ran slow circles with them for about 10 minutes.  Seabirds were diving in the area which signaled to us these Lags were probably feeding.  By 945 am we were sitting alongside Platform Charlie listening to the melodious tones of Dave as he ran the oil in the Santa Barbara Channel down.  At about this same time Captain Tasha, doing her deck hand duties today, had a mega-pod of long-beaked common dolphins in her binoculars about a mile or so southeast of our locations.  Tall spouts, too, were reported amongst the dolphins.  Sure enough, by 10 am we were completely surrounded by common dolphins that seemed to be “on the move,” as opposed to diving and feeding or logging, etc.  We were south of Houchin at this point and as we drifted along with the dolphins we soon had estimated at least 12 humpback whales also in this same area, and even more outside of us all around.  The cetacean biomass here was huge.  Tasha’s favorite humpback of the day, the one with the white tail and a black rim all the way around like a picture frame, took to the air many times.  Its first breaches were in the distance, then it let one loose close to the boat a few minutes later.   What a trip !

12 noon Dave wasted no time driving the Condor Express back to all that morning marine life.  After a brief stop around 1235 pm for a close look and short talk about Platform Houchin, we were back in the dolphin herd by 1255 pm.  Again, there were at least a dozen mixed in and around the dolphins, and, as before, more spouts in the periphery. There were two distinct and fantastic humpback whale behaviors on the afternoon excursion that we did not see in the morning.  First, there were several humpback whales around the boat, perhaps as many as 4, that had found one of the numerous detached paddies of giant kelp on the surface and went about shredding the salad (or “kelping”).   One of these monster veggie destroyers carried on close to the boat and took several full-body seaweed skin treatments right in front of all its fans.

The second fantastic behavior consisted of a nice “mugging” by one of the humpback whales.  It turned away from what it was doing and made a direct bee-line for the bow of the Condor.  When it was only a few yards away, it gently dove and passed under the boat.  We look all around for it to pop back up, but we had to wait a little while, as it seemed to us that the beast was “hiding” directly under the boat, perhaps between the two hulls.  But pop back up it did, several times, and many humpback whale aficionados on board were anointed several times by very close and fragrant spout spray.  On our way home we passed back through that same 2,000-strong dolphin herd.

The morning had a thin marine layer and the ocean surface had a very light chop.  By the afternoon trip the slight morning breeze had died, the stratus layer burned off, and the ocean was mostly glassy and smooth.  It was one of the best days I’ve had in weeks.

Be sure to check for today’s photos sometime this weekend when I finish processing.

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

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