08/05/2012 Orcas are the Highlight this Week

A young male orca on the prowl just outside of Moss Landing, CA Photo: Sack, 08-05-2012.

This past week has been up and down out there on the Bay. We’ve had nice calm conditions mostly and no thick fog. The humpbacks have been the star attraction earlier in the week, with fantastic surface lunge feeding not far from Moss Landing. At times the boat was surrounded by lunging whales, with their huge mouths gaping open showing off the broom-like baleen, their pink palates and their bulging pleated throats. It really has been thrilling to experience. At some points, we had them lunging within feet of our boat.
Surprise breaches have delighted our passengers (as well as crew!). One morning while we were searching the waters for whale blows, out of the blue a huge humpback whale bursted above the surface into a full body breach.We had no warning that a whale was anywhere near us, so this took us completely by surprise!

The blues have been few and far between this week. On Saturday, however, we had a nice close encounter with a large blue whale straight west of Moss Landing.It was feeding deep and making long fifteen minute dives. But when it surfaced, all aboard got great views of this massive, majestic animal.

The show-stealers have been Orcas. On Friday we ventured out West in search of more humpbacks and I caught the distinctive tall black dorsal fin of an Orca to the southwest. It was getting time to turn back towards port, but when there are killer whales on the horizon, we have to go for it! I’m sure glad we did, as this pod of seven Orcas put on a very nice show with breaches, spy hops, tail splashes and close swim-bys which delighted our passengers. It appeared that we found them just after a kill which always makes them more playful. We’ve have four Orca sightings this week (including today)! The pod visiting Monterey Bay is distinguished by the large male known as “Chop Top” due to his damaged dorsal fin. There is another very large adult bull along with several females and their young, including a baby that is still orangish buff (not yet white) and black.

Last but not least are the leatherback sea turtles that have come into the Bay to feed on the abundant jellies. These highly endangered sea turtles are just awesome to encounter. We are really on the search for them this coming week in collaboration with a Moss Landing Marine Lab researcher who hopes to place tags on some to record their behaviors. The first step is spotting them and we sure will be in search mode.

With the calm conditions predicted for this week, we plan on running 3 pm trips as well as our 10 am trips daily.

About Michael Sack

Boat Captain, Monterey Bay marine life naturalist and guide. Photographer and Videographer.
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