The sun had decided to hide today.
Regardless, the conditions still looked quite nice. There wasn’t much of a swell, and there wasn’t much wind either. We set sail on the Pacifica with myself, Captain Rod, and Deckhand Kevin. I was not prepared for how epic this day was about to become.
We started off going along Del Monte Beach, looking for humpbacks that might be feeding along there. Visibility started off being a little bit poor, not horrible but we couldn’t see as far as we normally could. It was very cold, and I had to keep my hands in my pockets to shield them from the wind. After a quick 15 minute ride or so I completely forgot about the cold, as we received a call that there were Killer Whales a few miles away from us!
Our first sighting of the day was absolutely magnificent. Two female Killer Whales swimming around super close to the harbour! We enjoyed amazing views of these creatures as the clouds started to give away, and it was brighter and brighter on every surfacing.
Before long, a third killer whale entered the area. This one was a big male, one that we know as Fat Fin. As soon as Fat Fin arrived, everything went up a notch. The group became more predictable, they started surfacing longer and diving shorter, and they would pop up for a close pass occasionally.
This was when things got a little bit wild. The three Killer Whales changed direction and started pointing towards an enormous raft of California Sea Lions, probably a couple hundred strong. The three Killer Whales formed a sort of convoy pointing directly towards the Sea Lions, who were initially unaware of their presence. Suddenly all hell broke loose – the raft of Sea Lions broke up, with some porpoising at full speed south, some porpoising at full speed north, and some going crazy while remaining in the same spot. An enormous splash breaks out of the water in the group to the north. These Killer Whales were either hunting or harassing the Sea Lions, and doing a good job of it. The Sea Lions were not happy.
After re-approaching, it looked like they were simply harassing the Sea Lions as there was no sign of them feeding. Really, really nice looks at this group. We were super happy and decided to keep pushing on to see if we could find another species.
Before long, we had come up to a feeding pair of humpback whales. These ones were great too, feeding amongst another large raft of sea lions. They were quite predictable surfacing near the sea lions and even gave us some super close passes. Awesome!
The time came for us to turn around and head home, and I was itching to get back out there and catch back up with the Killer Whales. As we leave the harbour on our 1:30 trip we realise that these Killer Whales had disappeared up north, with none of the other boats sticking with them. It would be nearly impossible to find them again, given the speed they were last seen moving at.
No worries – the call comes in that there was another group of Killer Whales. A completely different group! This time it was about a 45-minute drive up towards Moss Landing to catch up to them, and it was well worth it when we did.
We arrived on the site of a fresh kill. This was the same group that we had seen out here a few days ago, and they were doing similar behaviours. This time, they were consuming the carcass of a Sea Lion.
We saw tail slapping, we saw breaches. Our passengers saw myself and Kevin making weird, excited noises. We saw a large male Killer Whale swimming around with the sea lions intestines wrapped around its dorsal fin. We saw chunks of sea lion floating towards us in the water. It got a little graphic!
Once they had finished eating, they continued to put on a show for us. While we were waiting for them to resurface, looking off into the distance, they had decided to come right towards us. The entire group of six surfaced directly underneath the bow. We got some of the best possible looks at Killer Whales, and this was one of the moments where I had to sit down and take a moment. Words can’t describe how amazing these moments were. Beautiful, wild creatures, inviting us into their lives.
After the Killer Whales began to calm down, we continued home with a quick detour to get some nice looks at about 5 humpback whales. They behaved exactly like the rest of the cetaceans had been all day long – great views, short dives, and predictable movements.
I’m sitting at the wharf right now after hopping off the boat, still shaking a little bit from all the adrenaline. This was such an amazing day, and I’m glad to have such awesome coworkers to share it with. Let’s see what tomorrow brings!
Naturalist Pete Naik