07-23-2015: Humpbacks, Otters and A Friendly Mola Mola

Moss Landing Mola Mola

On the way in we had one of the best mola mola looks ever. This thing was sticking it’s mouth out of the water. The water color has been amazing. Photo: Michael Sack, 07-23-2015.

We had mixed results throughout the day today. The humpbacks were scattered on the morning trip. We didn’t see our normal pair right out in front of Moss. So we had to go out about 3-miles to the northwest where we had some great looks at two humpbacks. We did a little exploring but didn’t find much.

Moss Landing Humpbacks

Moss Landing Humpbacks go down for a dive. Photo: Michael Sack, sanctuarycruises.com 07-23-2015

 

On the afternoon trip our two faithful humpbacks were right out front. Then another couple of humpbacks showed up. So we had four scattered animals on the afternoon trip. We mainly stayed the two that had shorter dive cycles. One of them kept giving us the random tail lob, so that was cool.

Moss Landing Humpback Whale Tail

Notice the unique pattern of white and black on the underside of this humpback whale fluke. Scientists use photographs of these tail flukes to track humpback whale movements. That pattern is as unique as a human fingerprint. This is called photo-identification research.

 

But the wind picked up and made the going rough heading to the west. We pretty much stayed right out front for the whole trip.

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07-20-2015: Moss Landing Humpbacks, A Handful of Surface Lunges, Elephant Seals and More

Moss Landing Humpback

Humpback goes down for a dive. Photo: Michael Sack, 07-20-2015.

Another epic day on the Monterey Bay right out in front of Moss Landing. Perfect, calm condition for most of the day. The humpbacks started grouping up more today than they have been.

Moss Landing Humpback

Humpback whale going down for some more anchovies. Photo: Michael Sack, sanctuarycruises.com 07-20-2015

Moss Landing Humpback

Two humpbacks working the anchovies together. Photo: Michael Sack, sanctuarycruises.com 07-20-2015

Over the last week or so we’ve been seeing mainly single humpbacks scattered over a 3-5 mile area. So it was nice to see more anchovies at the surface, shorter dive cycles and longer surface time.

Moss landing Humpback Whales

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07-19-2015: Epic conditions, more whales show up in front of Moss Landing, elephant seals and more

Moss Landing Humpback Whale

Moss Landing Humpback whale goes down for a dive. Photo Michael Sack. 07-19-2015.

I don’t think I’ve been out in better conditions. Pure glass. T-Shirts and shorts and feeling good.

Moss Landing Humpback Whale

Moss Landing humpback whale doing a fluke up dive. Photo: Michael Sack, sanctuarycruises.com 07-19-2015

Between six and eight humpback whales showed up out front and have been working together feeding and staying up nicely.

Moss Landing Elephant Seal

We’ve been seeing elephant seals almost every day. Photo: Michael Sack, sanctuarycruises.com 07-18-2015

We’ve even had a couple of random breaches and tail slaps. Today we had massive patches of anchovies at the surface.  We also had the occasional big fatty head of the mighty humpback whale popping out of the water as they did some vertical surface lunge feeding. This has me thinking things are starting to heat up.

Moss Landing Humpback Whale

Moss Landing Humpback Whale next to the Sanctuary. Photo: Michael Sack, sanctuarycruises.com 07-18-2015.

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07-16-2015: Humpbacks, Risso’s Dolphins, Dalls Porpoise, Elephant Seal and More

Moss Landing Humpback Whale

It was nice the see the feeding action picking up a little today. This humpback did this once. So it wasn’t like it was a full on feeding fest. But they were staying up nicely and not doing long dives. Photo: Michael Sack, www.sanctuarycruises.com 07-16-2015

As we turned the bend to head into the main channel, I spotted a blow. The mighty humpback whale. At this point we are still a quarter mile inside the harbor. I usually don’t say anything. It’s amusing to see the excitement of passengers when they see a blow and discover there is a whale not far from us.

Moss Landing Humpback Whale

Our local Moss Landing humpbacks. At least a few of them have been right in this area almost everyday for going on two years now. Photo: Michael Sack, www.sanctuarycruises.com 07-16-2015

We have had at least a few very reliable humpback whales just outside the harbor everyday for going on two-years straight now. It’s really quite remarkable. So we’ve kind of have a routine now. We start the trip by heading over to the blows just outside the harbor. At least that’s generally been the case for most trips over the last year and a half.

Moss Landing Humpback Whale

Here is a close-up. This was kind of a combination lunge feed and spy hop. Photo: Michael Sack, www.sanctuarycruises.com. 07-16-2015

We always like to get some decent looks right out the gate. And depending on how the whales are behaving, we either stay with them or go exploring.

Moss Landing Humpback Whale

Moss Landing Humpback whale goes down for a dive. Photo: Michael Sack, www.sanctuarycruises.com 07-16-2015

Today the Moss Landing humpbacks were treating us pretty good. We had this one animal do a nice vertical surface lunge. So that was cool. Today we stayed out front for about an hour. After that we headed out to where we were getting reports of more whales and dolphins.

We also came across a few different mola mola’s.

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07-13-2015: Humpbacks in Front of Moss, More Scattered humpbacks 8-miles out and More

Moss Landing Humpback Whale

This is the yearling humpback that launched about 4-6 times. Photo: Michael Sack, sanctuarycruises.com 07-12-2015

Humpbacks are still on the prowl and feeding within a mile of the harbor. Pretty much been the routine for the last year and a half.

Moss Landing Cormorant

Moss Landing Cormorant brings up a fish. Photo: Michael Sack, sanctuarycruises.com 07-13-2015

We also heard reports of a couple more long diving humpbacks about 8-miles to the southwest.

We've been coming across this same elephant seal for the last few days. Photo: Michael Sack, sanctuarycruises.com 07-13-2015

We’ve been coming across this same elephant seal for the last few days. Photo: Michael Sack, sanctuarycruises.com 07-13-2015

Today the whales were making large circles. For the most part, they were singles. Not really feeding together. They seemed to be feeding separately and deep as they were doing about 7-10 minute dive cycles.

Moss Landing Humpback Whale

Humpback does a fluke up dive. Photo: Michael Sack, sanctuarycruises.com 07-13-2015

We were getting some great looks when suddenly this massive animal completely launches itself out of the water within about 20 feet of the boat. Quite spectacular.

Moss Landing Sea Lion

This sea lion is tearing apart this small shark. They do what I call “mad-dogging.” That’s when they grasp the fish firmly in their teeth and shake it violently as they take a bite. The fish goes flying and the birds come in. Then the sea lion will keep doing this until there is nothing left. Photo: Michael Sack, sanctuarycruises.com 07-13-2015

Moss Landing Sea Lion

Sea Lion nabs a shark. Photo: Michael Sack, sanctuarycruises.com

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07-06-2015: Friendly Humpback, a Jumping Thresher Shark, mola molas and More

This is the friendly that kept going back and forth under the boat. At one point, we could see the tail on one side of the boat and it's head on the other side of the boat. Photo: Michael Sack, sanctuarycruises.com 07-06-2015.

This is the friendly that kept going back and forth under the boat. At one point, we could see the tail on one side of the boat and it’s head on the other side of the boat. I had the engines off. So it was a full sensory experience. Let me just say that vaporized whale breath has a salty taste about it.  Photo: Michael Sack, sanctuarycruises.com 07-06-2015.

The action started early in the trip as we stumbled across a lone humpback right out the gate. But soon it was obvious this was not a whale we wanted to watch. It seemed like a ten minute diver. So after a couple of dive cycles we moved on.

Moss Landing Thresher Shark

This thresher shark launched about five or six times. Photo: Michael Sack, sanctuarycruises.com 07-06-2015.

After about 10-minutes of running to the southwest I noticed a fish-like animal jumping about 50-yards off to my right. I immediately made a course and grabbed my camera. It jumped a few more times and when we were about 10 yards away it launched right in front of us. That was a rare sighting.

Check out some video from today: Friendly Humpback whales

Moss Landing Humpback Whale

This whale seemed very interested in us. Almost curious. Photo Michael Sack, sanctuarycruises.com 07-06-2015

There were a lot of whales around, but they were scattered into singles and doubles. I’d say 10-15 whales scattered over about a 5-mile area starting just outside the Moss Harbor.

More video from today: Moss Landing Humpback Showing Us Some Love

Moss Landing Humpback Whale

This was the whale we came across right out the gate. Photo: Michael Sack, sanctuarycruises.com, 07-06-2015

But all we needed was this one friendly. This animal spent the better part of 30-minutes under and around our boat. Floating below the surface right next to the boat, then going back and forth under the boat. A truly remarkable encounter. One I’ll never forget.

Moss Landing Humpback Whale

This humpback was actually circling the boat. Photo: Michael Sack sanctuarycruises.com 07-06-2015

So things have been looking up. Over the weekend the action was mixed from one trip to the next. But overall amazing. We even had one lone orca on the 08:00 AM trip on 07-05-2015. The animal was clearly in hunt mode. So that was fun. We just really never know. Every trip is different.

Moss Landing Humpback Whale

More circling. Photo: Michael Sack, 07-06-2015.

Santa Cruz Humpback Whale Barnicle

These are the barnacles on the rostrum of a humpback whale. Photo: Michael Sack, sanctuarycruises.com 07-06-2015.

Santa Cruz Humpback Whale

 

Santa Cruz Humpback Whale

This humpback seemed to want to get a look at everyone. Photo: Michael Sack, sanctuarycruises.com 07-06-2015.

Santa Cruz Humpback Whale

This was one of our best encounters. I’ve got to tell you, looking a 45′-50′ humpback whale in the eye three feet away from you is a very moving experience. Just ask anyone who was on-board today. Photo: Michael Sack, sanctuarycruises.com 0-06-2015

 

 

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07-04-2015: Humpbacks Getting Lively in Front of Moss Landing

Moss Landing Humpback Whale

All was quiet with a couple of long-diving humpbacks when this one started repeatedly tail-lobbing and tail-slapping. Photo: Michael Sack, www.sanctuarycruises.com 07-03-2015

It amazes me how different each trip can be. Even more so, how different each minute of each trip  can be. There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to what goes down out there. Nature and her behaviors are unpredictable.

Moss Landing Elephant Seal

We came across this elephant seal as we were searching for more whales. Photo: Michael Sack, 07-04-2015

 

To us a lot of the behaviors we see seem random. Like breaching, tail-lobbing, pectoral fin slapping or friendly behavior. Today was a good example: On one of our trips, we had been waiting for a single humpback to come up from a dive. This animal was doing some long dives and then staying up for only a few blows and then down again. I’m talking a 7-10 minute whale. That’s what we call a ten-minute whale. When they’re doing 7-10 minute dive cycles. After a couple of ten-minute dive-cycles, I usually head out and look for greener pastures. I mean a guy can only take so much.

Entangled Humpback Whale

Unfortunately, this humpback became entangled in crab trap gear. We stayed with this animal until another boat could got on the scene to stay with it until the Whale Entanglement team out of Moss Landing to get out there and try and untangle the animal. As of July 4, 2015, the animal was reported to be off of Point Sur south of Monterey. Photo: Michael Sack, 07-03-2015.

And after this whale’s second dive, I waited for about 5-minutes before I started to head out. Just as I was about to put it in gear, this massive animal launches itself completely out of the water. Then it continued to carry on at the surface slapping it’s pectoral fin against the water and rolling around and generally staying at the surface with short dive-cycles. Then after about 30-40 minutes of this, the animal just seem to leave. The rascal gave us the slip.

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07-02-2015: Acrobatic Humpbacks in Front of Moss, Mola Molas and More

Moss Landing Humpback Whale

This whale just randomly breached right next to the boat. Photo: Michael Sack, www.sanctuarycruises.com 07-02-2015

We started out the day with thick fog as we departed on our 08:00 am trip. I’m always nervous when we have fog. I just can’t help it. Even though the whales have been pretty much in the same area in front of Moss Landing for about the last year and a half, thick fog always makes me wonder if we’re going to find whales. Seriously, when we can’t see more than a boat length away in any direction. It makes it hard. But we haven’t been skunked by fog in probably well over a year.

Moss Landing Humpback Whale

Humpback whale flukes up in the fog. Photo: Michael Sack, www.sanctuarycruises.com 07-02-2015

These humpbacks can range up and down the whole California coast. Over the last year and a half there have been about 10 whales feeding between the harbor entrance and about 5 miles out. Sometimes they are closer, sometimes they are further. We never really know. So fog is always a risk.

Moss Landing Humpback Whale

This is the whale’s pectoral fin. This whale was doing what we call pectoral fin slapping. Photo: Michael Sack, www.sanctuarycruises.com 07-02-2015

Once we got into the area of where we’ve been seeing whales, we just kind of slowed to near dead in the water, looking all around the boat to the extent that we could and listening, smelling. That’s right, often these humpbacks have a foul smelling breath that fouls up an area. After about ten minutes of this, a full size humpback popped up and blasts a loud blow off to our starboard. It was kind of surreal, what with the fog and all.

Moss Landing Harbor Seal

Another Moss Landing Harbor Seal. Photo: Michael Sack, www.sanctuarycruises.com

We could hear other blows in the distance, but our visibility was masked by the fog. But as we inched in the direction of the blows, a large humpback popped the better part of it’s head and body out of the water and crashed down to the water. I call these chin slaps. This animal did this repeatedly. Then another one joined in and followed it up with a nice tail lob.

Moss Landing Humpback Whale

Moss Landing Humpback Whale shows some tail fluke. Photo: Chace Decker, www.sanctuarycruises.com 07-02-2015

Now we’re talking. This is the kind of action we love. It was hard to get photos though because of the thick fog. But these things were going off. We had multiple breaches right next to the boat.

Moss Landing Mola Mola

We’ve been seeing more and more mola mola’s. Photo: Chace Decker, 07-02-2015

As the morning went on, the visibility got better and made for some excellent conditions. We did have some patchy fog as the day went on, but the whale action was fantastic.

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06-29-2015: Six to Eight Humpbacks in front of Moss, Close up Tail-lobber, Sea Otters and a Massive Mola Mola

Moss Landing Humpback Whale

Moss Landing humpback whale takes a dive. Photo: Michael Sack, www.sanctuarycruises.com.

Marine conditions were not ideal today. Early on as we left the harbor visibility was poor. We had some solid patches of dense fog. So that’s never good. We used to get worried when we had dense fog.

Moss Landing Humpback Whale

Tail-lobbing, tail-slapping humpback whale. This whale repeatedly slapped it’s tail on the water. Photo: Chace Decker, www.sanctuarycruises.com 06.30.2015.

But lately, because the 6-8 humpbacks have been consistently in the same area, we can usually find them. Even if we need to turn off the engines and listen and then move in the general direction of where we hear blows. We’ve found whales in fog on more than one occasion using this technique.

Moss Landing Humpback Whale

Humpbacks on the prowl. Photo: Michael Sack, www.sanctuarycruises.com 06-28-2015.

Luckily is wasn’t long before a brisk wind blew the fog away. But with the wind came some pretty lumpy conditions. It was manageable, but a pesky 1′-3′ wind chop made for some rocking and rolling.

Moss Landing harbor Seal

Moss Landing harbor Seal. Photo: Sack, www.sanctuarycruises.com 06-28-2015

The good news is that we had about 6-8 whales right out in front of the Moss Landing Harbor. One of them was putting on a show with massive tail lobs and tail slaps.

Moss Landing humpback whale

Moss Landing humpbacks going down for some deep feeding. Photo: Michael Sack, www.sanctuarycruises.com 06-28-2015

Then on our way back in, we got up-close personal with a 6-foot mola mola and a baby mola only about 1 foot diameter.

Moss Landing Mola Mola

The Mola Mola. We’re starting to see more and more. Photo: Michael Sack, www.sanctuarycruises.com

 

Moss Landing Sea Otter

Moss Landing female sea otter feasting on a crab. We can tell she is a female by her discolored and scarred nose. During mating, the males clamp on to the female’s nose with their teeth. It’s kind of brutal. But that seem’s to be how they do it. Photo: Michael Sack, www.sanctuarycruises.com

Of course we always love to see the Southern sea otter. We almost always get great looks at these cute animals. After all, Moss Landing is the center of their range.

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06-26-2015: Humpbacks Still Just Outside Moss Landing, One Lone Orca Yesterday

Moss Landing Killer Whale

A lone killer whale shows up just outside of Moss Landing Harbor. Photo: Michael Sack, www.sanctuarycruises.com 06-25-2015.

The Moss Landing Humpback whale action continues just outside of our harbor. Early in the trip we had one humpback less than a mile from the harbor. We tracked this lone humpback for about 45 minutes before heading out to the west in hopes of finding more whales, dolphins or maybe even orcas. We never really know unless we head out.

Moss Landing Killer Whale

We saw a big splash and noticed a slick. So we know this animal was actively hunting. Photo: Michael
Sack, www.sanctuarycruises.com

After about about twenty minutes of cruising we started to see blows and then tail lobs and breaches. So we were onto some active whales.

Moss Landing Humpback Whales

All the action has been within a few miles of the Moss Landing Harbor. Photo: Michael Sack, www.sanctuarycruises.com 06-25.

But of course as not long after we got on the scene they seemed to have taken a break. But we did get to see a few close up tail-lobs.

Moss Landing Sea Otter

One of our local residents, Moss Landing “A” dock. Photo: Michael Sack, 06-26-2015.

Yesterday we had a killer whale a few miles out from the harbor. So that was a nice break from humpbacks. Especially when the 20’+ animal made a course for us and submerged under the boat just a few feet from us, popping up on the other side.

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06-24-2015: Moss Landing Remains the Hotspot for Humpbacks

Moss Landing Humpback Whales

A humpback whale goes for a deep dive out in front of Moss Landing Harbor. Photo: Michael Sack 06-24-2015

Nothing new to report really. Six to eight humpbacks continue feasting on the abundant anchovies just outside of the Moss Landing Harbor. They have been doing pretty routine humpback whale behavior. Basically going down and coming up. Seem to be either feeding deep or in search mode. We have some long dive cycles lately. But when they come up we’ve been getting some great looks.

Moss Landing Elephant Seal

We had a great look at this female elephant seal. Photo: Michael Sack, 06-24-2015.

Still no reports of much else in The Bay. We did hear some reports today of a small group of Risso’s dolphins and another report of a small group of pacific white-sided dolphins quite a bit further out.

Moss Landing Humpback Whale

More deep diving. Photo: Sack, www.sanctuarycruises.com 06-24-2015.

We’ve still been doing some exploration runs as we head out four-five miles. We have ran across some Mola Molas  and the occasional elephant seal. We have also been seeing a lot of “egg yolk” jellies. But not much else.

Moss Landing Humpback Whales

And down they go. Photo: Michael Sack, www.sanctuarycruises.com. 06-21-2015.

Conditions have been nice in the morning. And we expect that to be the case for Friday, Saturday and Sunday. But we never really know with the weather.

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06-19-2015: Moss Landing Humpbacks Still the Main Show in Monterey Bay

Moss Landing Pacific White-sided Dolphin

One of about 200-300 Pacific White-sided dolphins. It’s always fun when they ride along all around the boat. Photo: Michael Sack, www.sanctuarycruises.com 06-19-2015.

Two miles outside of Moss Landing Harbor continues to be where the main action is on the Monterey Bay. Most of the whale boats from Monterey and Santa Cruz continue to make their way over to Moss Landing for the big show.

Moss Landing Humpback Whale

Humpback whale takes a dive right out in front of Moss Landing. Photo: Michael Sack, www.sanctuarycruises.com 06-19-2015.

As usual, by the time we got to the the jetties at the Moss Landing Harbor mouth today, we were already seeing  blows. So the plan has been to get on a nice group of humpbacks and hope they do something interesting.

Moss Landing Pacific White-sided Dolphin

It was nice to see a large a group of pacific white-sided dolphins. It’s been a while since we’ve seen this large of a group. Photo: Michael Sack, www.sanctuarycruises.com 06-19-2015

 

We’ve been getting the occasional tail-lobber or breacher. But for the most part, the interesting encounters were groups of six-eight humpbacks cruising, diving and feeding together just a few feet from each other. After an hour or so we heard reports of Pacific White-sided dolphins about 3-4 miles away.  And what with all the boats in the entire whale watching fleet right out in front of Moss Landing, I figured we did’t want to crowd the animals, so we made a course for the pacific white-sided dolphins.

Moss Landing Humpback Whales

This was a few of about six to eight humpbacks that were feeding together. Photo: Michael Sack, www.sanctuarycruises.com 06-19-2015.

I was sure we were going to get to them. They were reported to have changed course and were now moving away from us to the west. But we kept going and eventually caught up to them. So it was worth the extra 40-minutes of travel time out there.

We have not heard any recent reports of concentrations of animals in other parts of The Bay. So it continues to be Moss Landing for most of the action.

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06-18-2015: Humpbacks Still in Holding Pattern Just outside of Moss Landing

Moss Landing Humpback Whale

Humpback whale does some tail slapping. Photo: Michael Sack, www.sanctuarycruises.com, 06-18-2015.

We didn’t have an active group of whales today, we had decent numbers. They seemed to be in search mode. Doing some long dives.

Check out this video from a couple of days ago:

 

Moss Landing Cormorants

A cormorant feeds her chick.

Every once in a while they would come across some shallow anchovies and stay up for a bit.

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06-17-2015: Six-Eight Humpbacks Feeding Again Just Outside Moss Landing Harbor

Here’s some video from a couple of days ago:

The humpbacks seem to be in a holding pattern. Most of the whales seem to be just outside the Moss Landing Harbor. Lately when we head out a little further to do some exploring we’re still not finding much. So the action continues to be just outside the harbor.

If you’re going whale watching on The Monterey Bay, it’s very likely that you will end up in front of Moss Landing. Whether you go out of Santa Cruz or Monterey, all the boats are pretty much coming over to Moss Landing.

We have plenty of room on our Friday 10:30 AM trip, our 08:00 AM weekend trips and 10:30 trip on Saturday. Smaller groups and more facetime with the whales.

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06-16-2015: Humpbacks Comming up and Going Down Right Outside Moss

Moss Landing Kayak Whale Watching

Dave Grigsby of the Kayak Connection out for a paddle. Humpbacks have been just outside the harbor over the last couple of days. Photo: Michael Sack, www.sanctuarycruises.com 06-16-2015.

The humpback whale action continues to be just outside of the Moss Landing Harbor. We haven’t been seeing many dolphins lately. They must have found another place feed over the last week or so.

Moss Landing Harbor Seal

We’ve been seeing this harbor seal pup foraging just outside the harbor mouth. Photo: Michael Sack, www.sanctuarycruises.com 06-16-2015

 

We’ve still been heading out about 3-4 miles to take a look around and haven’t seen much. In fact, there’s been nothing outside of Moss Landing.

Moss Landing Kayak Whale Watching

More kayak whale watching. Photo: Michael Sack, www.sanctuarycruises.com 06-17-2015.

All the action has been right out in front of the Moss Landing Harbor. The salmon fishing has picked over the last week or so. That has caused quite the flotilla right in the middle of it all.

Moss Landing Salmon

Moss Landing salmon fisherman Eric Mailander and Giancarlo Thomae land a nice salmon. Photo: Michael Sack, www.sanctuarycruises.com 06-16-2015.

Today the whales were pretty much just going down and coming up, giving us the occasional tail fluke. Pretty routine. They were also staying under for longer. That leads me to believe they were down there doing more searching  or deeper feeding.

Moss Landing Harbor Seal

Another Moss Landing harbor seal. Photo: Michael Sack, www.sanctuarycruises.com. 06-16-2015.

We had a few almost 10-minute divers. Then they would often pop up a half mile away from where they went down.

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