October 1 Trip Report
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.
|South Polar Skua|
Here is a map of our route out to Sur Ridge and back: http://gps.motionx.com/maps/39a837e7bfea293f48a7af5e900aa475
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
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: