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One heckuva whale !

Humpback whale won’t leave the Condor Express alone. I think he likes the jet wash.

Though we plied the Santa Barbara Channel from the mid Channel buoy eastward to Scorpion and back again, we “only” observed one humpback whale today. I put “only” in quotes because today was a day of QUALITY versus QUANTITY. Here’s the story.

About 4 miles out from Santa Barbara Harbor on a southerly course heading we saw a single humpback whale. Little did we know (a) it would be our only whale today, and (b) it was going to be priceless. Upon arriving near the whale’s area it immediately surfaced a few times sort of close to the Condor Express. Then it swam off and went on its deep dive. After a few minutes, “Holy Smokes!” yells Captain Mat, “this whale is right under the boat!” He could see it clearly on the fathometer. Quickly thereafter the whale surfaced right next to the boat with a very slow and deliberate spy hop….eyeballing all 100 passengers to be sure that all 200 eyes were on it. Then it swam off and went on its deep dive. Again Mat saw the whale on the fathometer after a few minutes. Again the whale surfaced right next to the boat and slowly, with much grace and elegance, did a slow turn with its mighty white-fringed pectoral flukes and curved itself downward until only its tail was visible to us humans. Well, you know what happened next…right…it swam off and went on its deep dive. Surfaced, mugged the boat. Deep dive. Again and again for almost an hour this whale looked like it was done with us at least 4 or 5 times, but each time returned for more mugging.

Oh, did I mention the water was absolutely still, calm and like glass? Although sunlight was minimal with the marine layer overhead, this actually made it a better sighting for everyone because the surface glare was minimal. The water was very clear and blue with only a few siphonophores and salps to be seen.

To shorten this trip up, we got a call about a blue whale waaaaay down to the east. It was a solid tip and we ran for it. Along the way we played with at least 2,500 common dolphins, a bunch of California sea lions, and about 8 very large Mola mola, including a pair that came up to the bow of the boat and looked at everyone through the blue water. Along the route many drifting giant kelp paddies had elegant terns resting on them, and one paddy had a larger royal tern. Mat saw a flock of at least 40 red necked phalaropes sitting together on the water, and all 3 common species of shearwaters were seen in abundance (sooty’s, black vented, and pink footed).

A nice trip along the middle of the north shore of Santa Cruz Island included a venture into beautiful Potato Harbor.

I’ll try to post up the photos sometime tomorrow, although with this many shots it might actually be Thursday.

see ya Bob Perry Condor Express

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