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Slap Happy Humpback Goes Wild

2016 05-09 SB Channel

An  epic day with a thick marine layer but very calm seas.  All 4 islands were in  clear view.  Observations today included 4 humpback whales, 25 Risso’s dolphins, 200 long-beaked common dolphins and 100 short-beaked common dolphins.  Captain Dave commanded the Condor Express with Second Captain Eric on deck and Steve in the galley.  Here are the spectacular details:

10 am to 240 pm Dave ran the kelp highway for a while just in case we might get lucky and find a gray whale cow-calf pair or two.  As we approached Hendry’s without any gray whales, Eric had already spotted a long line of dolphins about a half mile offshore.  Here we found approximately 200 long-beaked common dolphins all spread out and actively surface feeding on bait fish.  There was plenty of upside down chasing and leaping going on.  After a nice visit with these hungry cetaceans we proceeded south towards Santa Cruz Island.

At 1045 am we were perhaps a mile or two off the beach and found a solo humpback whale moving east.  It moved at a constant speed, and took only one breath at a time.  It was not a very showy or active whale.  Curiously, it seemed to travel in the green coastal waters only a few feet below the surface.  This was indicated (to me, anyway) by the footprints left by this humpback…they caused small breaking waves and white water along the leading edge with every upstroke.

A second humpback was located at 1125 am because it slapped its pectoral fins a few times, after which it quickly returned to long, 10 – 12 minute dives and no further action. This was a few miles north of the Lanes.

We found ourselves a few miles south of the Lanes at 1150 where our attention was immediately drawn to two more humpback whales.  One of them was a very exuberant pectoral fin-slapper.  Indeed we watched this energized cetacean, and its more sedate partner, for almost an hour as it slapped each pec fin, and often slapped both fins as it remained on the surface upside down exposing the grooves in its ventral blubber.  What a show !

Nearing Santa Cruz Island at 1245 pm our last cetaceans of the trip were found mingling somewhat off the northwest end.  It was a small group of 25 or so Risso’s dolphins in close proximity to about 100 short-beaked common dolphins.  The commons were friendly, the Risso’s not so much.

Dave gave us a great tour of the western sea cliffs and we entered the mouth of the world-famous painted cave before heading back across the Santa Barbara Channel to the harbor.

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

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