Monthly Archives: April 2014

04-24-2014: More Orcas, Lively Humpbacks, Beautiful Conditions

Moss Landing Killer Whales

We came across a pod of orcas about 4 miles outside of Moss Landing. Photo: Michael Sack,, 02-24-2014.

After a couple of rough days on The Bay, we got back into the swing of things with orcas, pacific white-sided dolphins, a black-footed albatross and happy humpbacks.

We came across these orcas early in the trip. But they were on the hunt and staying under; moving far in all directions. That made it hard to track them. So we decided to leave them and head offshore where we thought the humpbacks had moved out to. We found them about 13 miles out.

Monterey Bay Breaching Humpback Whale

I love when they breach. I think it’s the most spectacular thing we see out here. Photo: Michael Sack,, 04-24-2014.

Right when we were getting on the scene, this humpback launched about 30 yards from the boat.

Monterey Bay Humpback Whale

This was one chronic pectoral fin slapper. Photo: Michael Sack,, 04-24-2014.

This was the same whale that breached. This animal kept “peck slapping” almost the whole time we were there. It appeared to be slapping the two other whales in the group. Not violently, more of firm pat. Very peculiar.

Monterey Bay Humpback Whales

Here are a couple of humpback whales engaged in a little pectoral fin joust. Photo: Michael Sack,, 04-24-2014.

We had a good variety of behaviors today with these humpbacks.

Monterey Bay Humpback Whales

“Spy-hopping” Humpback Whale.Photo: Michael Sack,

Black-footed Albatross

We also had this unusually curious black-footed albatross fly up to the boat and float next to us. Photo: Michael Sack,, 04-24-2014.


Black-footed Albatross

A closer look at the black-footed albatross. Note the “tube” at the upper end of the beak. This is used for converting salt water into fresh water. A natural desalinization system. Photo: Michael Sack,, 04-24-2014.



04-20-2014: More Killer Whale Carnage

Moss Landing Killer Whales

After bringing her calf all the way from the lagoons of Baja to the Monterey Bay, she battles hard with the apex predators of the ocean. Photo: copyright Michael Sack, 2014.

The killer whales are on the hunt in the Monterey Bay. And their hitting their target: The northbound gray whale calves. This is the second attack and killing within the week.

Monterey Bay Killer Whale

Killer whale attacks in the Monterey Bay on gray whales historically happen between now and the end of May. Photo: copyright Michael Sack, 04-20-2014.

There were also humpbacks in the immediate area that were interacting with the orcas.

Monterey Bay Killer Whale

This calf had pretty well had it at this point. Photo: copyright Michael Sack, 2014.

This was an epic battle between a mother trying to save her calf and 10+ orcas needing to eat.

Monterey Bay Killer Whales

Cruising killer whales on The Monterey Bay. Photo: copyright Michael Sack, 04-20-2014.

We had two rounds of killer whales today. First on our 10:00 AM trip and then again on our 3:00 pm trip. It was remarkable.

Black-footed Albatross

And then there were the black-footed albatross. They always seem to show up at orca predation events. There were probably about 20 of them in the general area. Photo: Michael Sack, 04-20-2013.

Black-footed Albatross

Another cruising black-footed albatross. Photo: copyright Michael Sack, 04-20-2014.

04-14-2014: Feeding Humpbacks In Front of Moss Landing, 30+ Orcas Kill a Gray Whale

Likely one of the most incredible orca encounters we’ve ever had. Just remarkable. The day started out with anticipation. I got an early call from a fellow whale watching boat captain that he had a report of a large group of orcas making their way to toward Moss Landing at a high rate of speed from Point Pinos.

So we had the whole fleet keeping an eye out. But none of us ever found them. After an excellent day of humpback whales just outside the Moss Landing Harbor, we ended the trip and made our way to the dock.

Moss Landing Killer Whales

After a kill, orcas often become very playful. Breaching, tail slapping and generally very lively. Photo: Michael Sack, 04-14-2014

After the passengers left the boat and we were cleaning up, I happened to have the radio on and overheard a local researcher talking about a large pod of orcas not far from Moss Landing.

Moss Landing Killer Whales

These orcas would just start charging and launch out of the water. Just remarkable. Photo: Michael Sack, 04-14-2014.

Turns out that they were on a gray whale calf kill. So we quickly decided we were going to head back out and get in on the action. It was just me (captain Mike), Marine biologist and my partner Dorris Welch and Marine Biologist / Photographer Giancarlo Thomae. When we got on the scene, we were shocked.

Moss Landing Killer Whales

There were at least two young calves in this group. Here’s one of them. Photo: Michael Sack, 04-14-2014


There were orcas everywhere we looked. Confirmed to be over 30 orcas! Just remarkable. We stayed out until just before dark taking in this epic experience. Stay tuned for more more photos and video.

Moss Landing Killer Whales

Here’s another shot of one of the calves. Photo: Michael Sack, 04-14-2014.

04-07-2014: Today was all about the Orcas

Monterey Bay Killer Whales

This friendly pod of about 6-7 orcas were just hanging around, circling. Photo: Michael Sack,, 04-07-2014.

And now for something completely different. It’s been a while since we’ve had nice orca encounter. Over the last couple of months we’ve mainly been seeing one or two, maybe a few orcas. But today we had two different pods. While we watching this friendly group, another 3-4 orcas came blasting through the area at 8-10 knots.

Here is a link to some of the video we shot:

Monterey Bay Killer Whales

This calf kept doing these high tail lobs. It also did a spy hop or two. Photo: Michael Sack,

We tried to keep up with them but they just kept heading in toward Moss Landing. And we weren’t ready to go in yet. So we let them go and went back to friendly pod.

Monterey Bay Killer Whales

This pod of killer whales kept circling the boat. Photo: Michael Sack,, 04-07-2014

We pretty well stayed with this group for the entire trip. They were quite entertaining and were not moving. So it was easy watching all the way around.

Monterey Bay Killer Whales

I believe this was on of the males from the 3-4 killer whales that we saw come blasting through from the West as they made their way toward Moss Landing. Photo: Michael Sack,, 04-07-2014.

Monterey Bay Killer Whales

Here are two more on the hunt. Photo: Michael Sack,, 04-07-2013


04-06-2014: The Incredible Lunge Feeding Humpback, Bow-riding Pacific White-sided Dolphins, an Olive Ridley Turtle and More

Moss Landing Humpback Whale

We were with this humpback for over two hours and it was lunge feeding the entire time. Photo: Michael Sack,, 04-06-2014

Our early of run of feeding humpbacks continue. We saw a massive school of anchovies pass under the boat today. The water was clear enough so that we were able to get a good look. They were likely being chased by the feasting humpback whale that had just sounded 25 yards off our starboard side. The Bay is happening right now.

Moss Landing Humpback Whale

Here’s another massive surface lunge by this humpback we were with today. Photo: Michael Sack,, 04-06-2014


Today was all about this surface lunging humpback. This animal was involved with a serious feeding frenzy. I mean seriously. This thing was surface lunging on anchovies about every 3-5 minutes for about 3 hours. Really neat to see. Just before a massive surface lunge, a 6′ diameter ball of anchovies would break the surface a few inches. That would be followed by gaping mouth of the mighty humpback whale.

Moss Landing Humpback Whale

Here it is again doing a sideways lunge. The white fin is it’s pectoral fin. Photo: Michael Sack,, 04-06-2014.

Then there were the Pacific White-sided dolphins that seemed to be working the anchovies right alongside the humpback. At one point we got the boat underway and the Pacific White-sided dolphins started bow riding and launching along side us in our wake. Very cool.

Moss Landing Ridley Turtle

A rare sighting for us up here in the Monterey Bay. But sure enough, there it was. Photo: Michael Sack,, 04-06-2014

We even came across an Olive Ridley turtle. They’re usually found quite a bit further south. They are known to nest on the beaches of Central America and Mexico.

Moss Landing Ridley Turtle

Another shot of this Ridley Turtle. Photo: Michael Sack,, 04-06-2014.

And of course the perfect weather conditions made for a very pleasant trip and easy going.


04-03-2013: Dolphin Days, Friendly Humpbacks and Smooth Sailing

Risso's Dolphin

These dolphins were on the run. Blasting along at 8-10 knots. They kept launching out of the water together as they traveled to the South West. Photo: Michael Sack, Sanctuary Cruises, 04-03-2014.

Today was remarkable. We had an incredible Risso’s dolphin encounter. These things were behaving like bow riding common dolphins. Launching out of the water in groups of 4-5. Blasting along at 10 knots. Just incredible. Perfect conditions.

Humpback Whael

This is the pectoral fin and one side of the tail fluke of a feeding humpback whale. The whale is on it’s side doing a subsurface lunge feed. We were marking anchovies about 10′ under on our sounder. Photo: Michael Sack, Sanctuary Cruises, 04-02-2014.

And then there were the humpbacks. We had this humpback floating just below the surface right off of our stern. The whale’s head was actually under the boat at one point. It was just floating there about 3′-4′ below the surface. And then it slowly sank out of sight and popped up about 20-yards to the southwest.

There have been between 6-10 humpback whales hanging out 4-5 miles outside of Moss Landing for the last couple of weeks. We’re also getting reports of more making their way from the south into The Bay. The Spring action is on.

Moss Landing Sea Otter

This cute little guy started off the day for me. When I got to the docks at around 8:00 am he was hanging right next to the gangway to the dock that heads to Sanctuary. He stayed there all morning giving everyone excellent close up looks as he just floated there and groomed. Photo: Michael Sack, Sanctuary Cruises Whale Watching, 04-03-2014

We also had a report of “Chop Top” the orca cruising the area. We’re due for a heavy orca encounter. It’s getting to be that time of year again. When the gray whale mothers and calves start to make their way back from the birthing grounds in Baja to their feeding grounds up off of Alaska.

Speaking of Baja. I’ve been gone on and off since last September. On quite the sailing adventure down to the East Cape of Baja and back. It’s nice to have the sailboat back in Moss Landing and back to the amazing wildlife here.

Stay tuned for the Captain’s Log of Baja. It wasn’t all fun and games. Let me tell you.

Captain Mike