Three trips left the docks today with Captain and his crew and pristine ocean conditions for wildlife-viewing. It was sunny and there was no wind. Sightings for the day included: 75 Pacific white-sided dolphins, 5 gray whales, 1000 long-beaked common dolphins, and 2 humpback whales. As a side note these were our first humpback whales of the season and one of the pair was well known to us. “Rope” was our first humpback of the season!
On the morning trip we ran west along the beach which is the best way to find northbound gray whales. However, this particular drive up the coast was in some kind of gap between earlier and later whales. Captian then turned left and took the Condor Express offshore to see what we could see. A bit north of The Lanes two tall spouts turned out to be a pair of humpback whales. As you already know, one of them was “Rope.” Rope is a large adult female humpback whale that we’ve been watching for more than 10 years. She’s earned her nickname from a prominent entanglement scar just posterior to her twin blowholes, a place where she was, indeed, wrapped in some rope the first time we saw her.
The noon excursion located a pair of young adult gray whales about 2 miles off the coast of Gaviota Bay. We had great looks as we watched them westbound as far as Isla Vista. Once again we headed south, offshore, then east. Soon our second captain and deckhand spotted a mega-pod of around 1,000 dolphins. We followed along as the whole herd was migrating quickly to the southwest. After 20 minutes or so of nice looks, and as if someone flipped a switch, the whole herd went into very high speed “stampede” mode. Wow!
Weather and sea conditions remained wonderful for the late afternoon expedition. Right outside the mouth of Santa Barbara Harbor a large adult whale was located as we left on our third cruise. We followed this adult west to Leadbetter Beach where we intersected a mother whale with her very young calf. The pair was right in the surf zone, inside the kelp line. Fantastic looks were had as astonished beach-goers saw us looking at the pair. Turning out to deeper waters, a nice herd of Pacific white-sided dolphins found the Condor Express and rode our waves.