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Rope and Friend Mug the Condor Express In a Wild Meet-and-Greet Session

2015 06-30 SB Channel

We found our first payload of cetaceans just 3 miles south of Santa Barbara Harbor as we glided slowly along with at least 500 long-beaked common dolphins. There was less bump on the surface today, and it really started to get a lot calmer as the day moved along.   Not far from these #dolphins, our half man/half eagle, Augie, spotted spouts.

Ten minutes later we found our pal “Rope” (the big female with the prominent circumferential old entanglement scar) and another large (female ?) whale. These two were logging around on the surface and there were no seabirds, sea lions or dolphins in close proximity. Almost immediately the pair of knobby-headed #whales made a very close and friendly approach to the Condor Express. Little did we know what we were in store for.

For more than an hour the pair entertained their fan club with extremely close activity and interactions between the two whales.   The most amazing behavior was spyhopping a few yards from the hull in fairly clear, blue water.   You could see one whale, then the other, slowly rise up from the depths and float alongside. There were also a couple of very close tail fluking episodes. The whales often inter-twined, swam closely under or above each other…again, all very close to the boat. As “equal opportunity” entertainers, the pair moved from the port side to the starboard, from the bow to the stern, making sure every fan on board had fantastic looks.

One of the most curious behaviors, which I have personally never seen before in 10 years of intense humpback photography and study, was the habit of Rope’s pal to move her long pectoral so as to “throw water” on her back. It reminded Tasha our deckhand and galley manager of sea turtles on the beach covering their eggs with sand, or elephant seals out on the beaches of San Miguel Island throwing sand on their backs to keep down the kelp flies.   Even Rope seemed to “learn” this trick and did it herself once or twice.   If you were on board this trip I am sure you will find yourself in one of the photographs I took of the whales when the images get processed and posted later this week.

Blurry-eyed from the close encounter, we slowly moved away and headed south for Santa Cruz Island and the world-famous Painted Cave.   We passed through a little mid-Channel fog bank and burst out into bright sunlight as we approached the island.   Captain Dave gave us a great tour of the sea cliffs and little coves, and the trip inside the mouth of the Painted Cave was very special today.   There were small batches of pelagic red crabs (Pleuroncodes planipes) in the water against both sides of the cave. They really shined brightly in the bright sun and deep blue water.

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

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