Optimism was in the air as Christmas time is also orca time. Killer whales were seen in the channel on Christmas Eve, so we were ready to pounce on any action. After leaving the harbor to flat calm seas and overcast skies, we found a few large pods of common dolphins. Probably 2,000 in this area alone, we spent time with them to ensure their larger cousins weren't following them. About an hour later our crew got reports that a private boater had seen orcas in the eastern channel. Our excitement was through the roof as we turned towards their last known location off the Eastern end of Anacapa Island.
A short while later, Captain Delaney Trowbridge of Pacific Offshore Expeditions radioed us to let us know she had relocated the whales. On the Northern end of the Hueneme Canyon, we got on scene with the CA140B's led by matriarch "Louise," with her new calf, likely only a few months old. The cloudy skies had lifted and we watched this group of 6 killer whales successfully hunt a common dolphin. While sad to see the life of a common dolphin perish, it is important to note that killer whales must eat too. They are incredibly diligent hunters and play a vital role in the marine ecosystem as apex predators. Our crew and passengers had a first-hand encounter of that today.
Soon after these whales began charging southwest along the edge of the canyon. After an hour or so of traveling, they found a group of 3 sea lions. Drone footage revealed some incredible hunting tactics and prey sharing between the whales, as well as a celebration with spy hops, breaches, and lots of rolling around with one another. Two of the sea lions were eaten and shared amongst the group, while the 3rd escaped with its life. It was an incredible day in the Santa Barbara Channel, we want to thank our passengers for coming out, and crew and fellow whale-watching operators for making this possible.
Until next time,
The SBWW Crew