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OMG! A Megapod of Gray Whales

2016 01-15 SB Channel

OMG! A megapod of gray whales!

There was a pretty fresh breeze blowing from the western Santa Barbara Channel and we made our crossing in choppy, Beaufort 4 and 5, sea conditions.   There wasn’t much a swell, just a bit of whitecaps.   Skies started out party cloudy and the sunny spots were warm and nice. We stopped for a while to watch about 50 long-beaked common dolphins jump over the whitecaps.  Later, as we crossed the Lanes, a medium-thin, patchy sea level fog layer engulfed us. So it came to pass that we were south of the Lanes and a relatively nice, sunny zone opened up to us, and behold, yay verily, Captain Dave spotted a megapod of southbound gray whales.

It was not until we were closer to the megapod that we all appreciated what, indeed, we were looking at.   The gray whales moved parallel to Santa Cruz Island for a while, then struck an almost direct, northerly course towards mid-Channel. We stayed with this group for an hour, and we could only guess that sometime later in the afternoon they would make a course change and get back on track for Mexico.

The actual number of individuals in this megapod is hard to determine exactly. First there were the fog patches, add to that the strong winds, mix in some nice salt spray and angular winter lighting, and counting became a challenge.   I watched one of their regular, every-5-minute surfacings through my telephoto lens and counted out loud as tail flukes were kicked up. I tallied 16 tail flukes then added more to the count for those that did not fluke up when sounding. I thought 20 gray whales in the pod was pretty accurate. Another crew member said he counted 26.   Captain Dave was the conservative with a solid 18.

The sight of all those spouts and tail flukes amidst fairly rough seas with winds blowing the spout spray asunder….well, it just doesn’t get any better than this !

I’ll try and get these images processed over the weekend and posted to the regular photo site:   Meanwhile, I strongly urge you all to come out NOW while we are still near the apex of the southbound migration curve.

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

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