We were halted by a small pod of Atlantic white sided dolphins, including three pairs with tiny little calves keeping right up with their moms.

The glassy water made for ideal conditions to watch and photograph these speedy cetaceans.

Two minke whales and a humpback were also spotted nearby, prepping passengers to find the 6-7 other humpbacks on the southwest corner. We also noticed a bit more bird activity than we’ve been seeing lately with gulls and great shearwaters.

white-sided dolphin mother and calf
white-sided dolphin mother and calf

Etch-a-Sketch and Timberline were first found kick feeding independent of each other but eventually they joined but were mostly feeding subsurface. They headed toward three other humpbacks, one of whom snuggled into the tuna fleet and snoozed, two others who fed near to the pair. We enjoyed a couple of close surfacings and enjoyed the beautiful afternoon with a quick look at a pair of fin whales to round out the trip.

Our afternoon spurred an impromptu whale ID party between intern Sam, ride along naturalist Heidi as we encountered at least 12 humpbacks scattered around. The (not yet final!) list included Samara, Etch-a-Sketch, Shards, Scylla, Deuce, Timberline, Cosmos, Venom and her calf, and Apostrophe. Most of these whales were feeding in some capacity—some taking deep dives, some blowing bubble clouds, and some kick feeding. We watched two different whales (Deuce and Shards) flipper slap at different times and had one random breach in the middle of it all. Toss in a couple of surface lunges and a close approach or two and we pretty much checked all the items off a whale watch checklist!

Unfortunately, one whale that we did not find was Komodo. We heard reports that she is entangled so the whale watch boats joined in the search with the Center for Coastal Studies’ R/V Ibis to locate the whale and attempt disentanglement. We had initially been hopeful that our beloved Cardhu had been found as we are all very worried about her with a lack of sightings since her partial disentanglement. I’ll be perfectly honest in saying that by the afternoon I was feeling bummed out and discouraged about the apparent lack of urgency in addressing these more dramatic issues as well as the more hidden initiatives such as moving away from single use items. Hope is key though, and as lines were being tied a kind soul pulled me aside to ask about what she can do and how to make sustainable choices in seafood. Whale watching is exhausting, but it sure can be rewarding, too.

— Laura L. and Sam