It was an epic day full of fin whale and blue whale encounters at the hot spot near beautiful Santa Cruz Island. Skies cleared and the sun came shining down almost immediately, and seas were calm and glassy, especially in the morning. We closely watched 8+ fin whales, 4+ blue whales, 1500 long-beaked common dolphins, 35 offshore bottlenose dolphins, and many dozens of California sea lions. There were at least a dozen more giant whales all around the area.
We had an idea that sightings were going to be pretty hot today as we encountered a dense aggregation of sea birds, common dolphins and sea lions no more than 10 minutes after leaving Santa Barbara Harbor. Hundreds of brown pelicans were crash-diving on a huge bait ball, and the predatory mammals were also very active. It was a NatGeo kind of encounter. As we departed the feeding frenzy another hundred commons appeared, and then, 10 minutes later we found a mega-pod of nearly a thousand. Don’t worry, there were even more common dolphins seen as we came back from the whales at the island in the afternoon.
Our first giants were the fin whales today. We located 3 single whales, and then a trio, and after that a pair that was observed racing to the west. After these first fins a very cooperative blue showed up which had two behaviors going for it: (1) it took a LOT of breaths and thus was up on the surface a long time, and (2) it was also a tail fluker. At this point Captain noticed the arrival of a couple dozen offshore bottlenose dolphins. Some of them interacted with a distant pair of blue whales, while others swam slowly over to the boat for a look. Later another dozen or so bottlenose dolphins were watched. As mentioned above, the last sighting of the day was of around 100 additional common dolphins a few miles outside the harbor. This group was “logging,” hardly making any forward progress, in a tight group, and looking very “relaxed” in human terms.