Monday, October 3, 2011

 October 1 Trip Report
Xantus's Murrelet
 Text and photos by Blake Matheson copyright by permission only
Monterey Bay pelagic (MTY Co.), Monterey, US-CA
Oct 1, 2011 9:00 AM - 3:30 PM
Protocol: Traveling
30.0 mile(s)
Comments:     On the Sea Wolf II with Roger Wolfe for a charter by Sac Audubon and the Mt. Diablo and Yolo Chapters. Leaders Todd Easterla, Blake Matheson and Fritz Steurer also Jim Holmes, Terry Colborn and Mark Cudney. Captained by Richard Ternullo.
A beautiful temperate day with very easy seas throughout. After inshore course, headed west to app. 20 miles out and then southward to Sur Ridge in search of the water temperature break. We found the large Albacore fleet busy landing a glut of Tuna in 64 degree F water (57.6 in the harbor).  Trip notable for Skua slam, 12-15 (+) Xantus' Murrelets (all within the albacore zone, most fly-bys, but a couple approached at length and photographed) Flesh-footed Shearwater and a Greater White-fronted Goose at 20 miles+ offshore. Excellent views of 15-20 Northern Fur Seals,
Northern Fur Seal
sub adult bull Elephant Seal, large Mola Mola. No rorquals, but good views early of breaching Risso's Dolphin inshore and bow-riding Dall's Porpoise.
More truly exceptional was a view of Pacific Swordfish (Ternullo could not recall the last time he'd seen one on Mty Bay). But, the real highlight came late in the day. While passing Cypress Point around 2:30 or 3:00, Ternullo saw the near lateral spume of a great whale. It blew repeatedly and we approached. The water roiled. At first we saw what we believed were two sperm whales. Drawing closer it became clear, however, these were not two whales but one enormous bull, with the massive leading edge of its head emergent some distance from the caudal peduncle of its tail. At this point there was no question we were in the company of Physeter macrocephalus, and an enormous specimen at that. The maximum size of Sperm Whale bulls is apparently a topic of some controversy. The Nantucket Whaling Museum has part of a jaw bone that is 18 feet long. Some claim the animal that bone came from would necessarily have been 80 feet at least. The whale that rammed and sank the Essex was said to have been 85 feet ("I turned around and saw him about one hundred rods directly ahead of us, coming down with twice his ordinary speed (25 knots), and it appeared with tenfold fury and vengeance in his aspect. The surf flew in all directions about him with the continual violent thrashing of his tail. His head about half out of the water, and in that way he came upon us, and again struck the ship." -Owen Chase, survivor]. Modernly, the biggest verifiable bull has measured in at 67 feet [Whitehead, H. (2002)]. While, of course, we can't say with any certainty how large this whale was, it gave an impression of true enormity compared to the Humpbacks and Grays we usually see on the Bay. There was no question this was a bull, and a superlative one at that. As we drew closer bottom readings put the depth at some 300 fathoms (1800 feet). We were near the Carmel canyon edge when the whale submerged and fluked up, with its tail stock nearly vertical. This appendage was also gargantuan in its own right, ridged and muscular.The fluke seemed surprisingly tiny next to the girth of his tailstock. We waited for the whale to resurface some 40 minutes before giving up and resuming our course back to the harbor. A few moments later we saw his spume again a final time, now far to the south beyond the wake line. This was the first Sperm Whale for most on board. It was Wolfe's first in North America. Ternullo has seen them only a handful in his many decades on the water.
Sperm Whale

Sperm Whale

South Polar Skua 
Here is a map of our route out to Sur Ridge and back: 
offshore pelagic/ inshore Pt. Lobos to harbor
Greater White-fronted Goose  1     One seen 20 miles + offshore/ 1
Canada Goose  1     Another offshore goose roughly 20 miles off Pt. Sur.
teal sp.  4     In flight with Scoters a few miles off Pt. Pinos.
Surf Scoter  8/2
Common Loon 0/1
Pacific Loon0/4
Eared Grebe 0/2
Western Grebe 0/2
Black-footed Albatross  10
Northern Fulmar  6/1
Pink-footed Shearwater  120/2
Flesh-footed Shearwater  1
Buller's Shearwater  25
Sooty Shearwater  300/60
Sooty/Short-tailed Shearwater  1/1
Brandt's Cormorant  140/250
Double Crested Cormorant 0/4
Pelagic Cormorant 0/15
Brown Pelican  40/15
Great Blue Heron 0/1
Great Egret 0/5
Snowy Egret 0/2
Black Turnstone 0/6
Red-necked Phalarope  60/85
Red Phalarope  8/0
Sabine's Gull  3/0
Heermann's Gull  300/400
Western Gull  125/300
California Gull  250/440
Common Tern  2/0
Elegant Tern  6/50
South Polar Skua  18/0
Pomarine Jaeger  30/0
Parasitic Jaeger  4/12/0
Long-tailed Jaeger  2/0
Common Murre  25/80
Xantus's Murrelet  15/0
Xantus's Murrelet (scrippsi)  2/0
Cassin's Auklet  12/10
Rhinoceros Auklet  30/25
Rock Pigeon 0/25
Photo collage by Wendy Naruo:

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