06-15-2013: Humpbacks, Blues, Orcas and Dolphins-About as good as it gets

What a difference a day makes. It just keeps getting better and better. I can safely say that the summer whale watching season is in full swing. All the heavy wind we have been having seems to have paid off.

"Stubby" and "Fat Fin" cruising for prey. Photo: Thomae, 06-15-2013.

“Stubby” and “Fat Fin” cruising for prey. Photo: Thomae, 06-15-2013.

We came onto our first group of blue whales within about 30 minutes of leaving the harbor. There were 4-6 blues within about a 2-mile area just outside of Moss Landing. We had some very nice looks of one of them that surfaced about 20 yards off our starboard side. So that was nice. Blue whales are OK. But nowhere near as interesting as humpbacks or orcas.

But they are the biggest animals to have ever roamed the earth. Most of the blues we get in the Monterey Bay can get to be just over 80-feet long. But you pretty much need to use your imagination. Because most of the time we only get to see about 30% of them at any given time. And if we’re lucky, we may get to see their tail flukes. Their tail flukes can get to be 20-feet wide on a full size blue whale. So that is quite impressive. But most of the time they don’t show their tail flukes.

Early on we had reports of at least twenty humpbacks and a handful more of blue whales about 5 miles from where we came across our first blue whales. On top of that, there were two killer whales in same area we were watching the blues just outside of Moss.

So after we had our fill of the blues, we started tracking the orcas. These were two regular visitors to the Monterey Bay. We call them “Stubby” and “Fat Fin”. “Stubby” was named on account of his mangled dorsal fin. It’s kind of sad. It takes away from some of his majesty. No one knows how his fin became mangled. But it’s cut off about 2-feet above his body. “Fat Fin” is so named because the base of his dorsal is quite fat. We always see these two together. So we had a couple of nice looks at these two before we headed out to the mother lode of humpbacks and the real show of the day about 4-miles away.

There were at least 20-30 whales in about a 2-3 mile area. We had at least 10 humpbacks and a couple of blue whales feeding in the area with a nice flock of shearwaters. Regular lunge feeding about every 5-minutes, Tail-fluking and pectoral fin slapping made for an excellent time of whale watching. We also had at least one close-up lunge feed by two humpbacks right next to the boat. A couple of times we watched in amazement as three humpbacks lunge-fed upside down and all we could see was a mess of throat pleats as they broke the surface. It was awesome.

The conditions were nice overall, but there was a pesky short period lump to the ocean surface. So I had my hands full keeping the boat in a comfortable position. I didn’t get a chance to get any good photographs because I had to keep the boat straight and couldn’t take my hands off the helm long enough to shoot any decent photos.

One thing is for sure. The Monterey Bay has come alive with a large concentration of whales and dolphins.

About Michael Sack

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