Humpback whale does a lazy slow motion dive as it feeds just below the surface. Photo Sack, 04-23-2012

The last few days have been beautiful. It’s been starting out questionable conditions. Today we had drizzly wet air and fog just before the trip started with a small lump on the ocean surface and a threatening southwest breeze fixing to blow. But by the time we got underway, it just got nicer and nicer. It’s so relaxing when the sea state calms down and I don’t have to white knuckle the helm the whole trip just keep the boat steady. What a nice day. No wind or swell to speak of. Just Awesome cetaceans, surface krill and jumping salmon.

We had at least two lunge feeding humpbacks living the good life at the surface about five miles outside of Moss Landing. They were hardly down for more than a couple of minutes at a time. Excellent dive cycle intervals for whale watching. So that’s always nice. We had some great looks at nice blows and regular tail flukes. And when we got downwind from these mighty, gentle beasts we all got to know what whale breath smells like. Some suggested a cross between rotting brussels sprout and week old anchovies.

Occasionally they were doing what I call a lunge feeding tail fluke. That is where their tail flukes kind of go sideways as they do some underwater lunge feeding. Then they were also doing these very slow motion partial tail flukes. We really get a sense of how graceful these animals are when they do this.

After a couple hours hanging with these humpbacks, we decided to head out and do some exploring to see if we could find some other animals. After about 45-minutes of cruising, we came across a huge pod of scattered Risso’s dolphins and Pacific white-sided dolphins. Mostly Pacific white-sideds. They looked like they were feeding. Because they were just kind of circling around working the surface feed along with a small flock of Shearwaters and gulls.

As we came upon the Pacific white-sided, they did what they usually do: Come cruising up along side the boat and start riding the bow and hoping out of our wake. It’s the neatest thing to see. They really seem to enjoy this. It happens almost every time we come across them. So everyone gets on the bow and when they look down, their are these beautiful Pacific white-sided dolphins jumping out of the water at the bow and moving along underwater going back and forth in front of the bow. Very cool.

They just kept following us as we headed back over toward the Soquel Canyon where we saw the humpback whales earlier. The were with us for almost 30-minutes. So now I we were on the hunt for orcas. Hoping to find them over where we last saw them a few days ago.

Unfortunately we didn’t find them. But I did notice this odd reddish tint to the water all around us as we were cruising along. Then I realized these were huge patches of surface krill. So we stopped and collected a full net’s worth for a krill researcher that we help out with field samples.

It was really neat for passengers to see what these whales eat. Krill are these tiny shrimp-like creatures. Usually during the day they are believed to spend most of their time underwater. Not at the surface like we observed today. I think it could have been because it was so overcast. But it was really neat to see.

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