Many Whales in the Fog

2016 06-23 SB Channel

Today the epic battle for truth, knowledge, beauty and whales took place in the Santa Barbara Channel.  Once again the elements of nature were highly variable.  Seas were calm and glassy most of the day with a light breeze picking up in the afternoon out near the Santa Barbara Channel Islands.  The stratus remained the biggest battlefront.  It was high near shore as we departed the harbor and located the humpback whale/common dolphin zone.  Then it was definitely touch and go with foggy patches that had less than 100 meter visibility interspersed with patches of very good, 1 or 2 mile horizontal clarity.

Just outside the harbor Captain Dave stopped on a very nice ocean sunfish (Mola mola) that deckhand (and second Captain) Eric spotted.  We all got great looks at this medium large living saucer.  Ten minutes later we were running along a long line of common dolphins that easily had 2,000 animals swimming, jumping, chasing anchovies and each other.  Among all the dolphins we also entered “la zona de las ballenas jorobadas” (humpback whales) and were located about 4 miles out from Hope Ranch at the time.  Each of the 4 big beasts were fluking-up but not staying down more than about 5 minutes.  There were several massive hot spots teaming with humpbacks, dolphins, sooty shearwaters, diving pelicans, and California sea lions.  After about 45 minutes of action Dave took a course heading out to The Ledge where larger whales have been consuming krill.

But we were stopped again 10 minutes along the route as another hot spot with 4 additional humpback whales and perhaps 500 or so more dolphins was encountered.  But Dave had his eyes on the prize and we got back on course for Santa Rosa Island.  As we approached The Lanes and moved beyond, there was tension in the wheelhouse as the stratus was on the deck and visibility was very very limited.  We tried smelling around and Eric spent a long time in the cold wind on the flying bridge doing his best to see if we might encounter a different species in the dense fog.  No luck yet.

Finding the previous area of very big whales socked-in, Dave began to run The Ledge to the east.  We were just off Frasier Point, on the Ledge, when the stratus dissipated and a partial clearing opened up.  Immediately very tall spouts began popping up all around the Condor Express.  In total there were 5 blue whales that we watched closely with many more spouts at the edge of the fog.  There is no telling how many of these magnificent giants would have been seen on a clear and sunny day.  We got fantastic looks at our blue whales, and then the weather collapsed and we were, once again, surrounded by fog.

No matter, we were already late and had to head home knowing we had some very awesome encounters on today’s excursion.  Wow!

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

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