September 14, 2019

Amazing Peduncle Throwing Humpback!

Jordan | M/V Sea Lion | 09/14/19 | 12:00pm

Today was unlike any day I’ve had in the San Juan’s!

Captain Pete, Naturalist Olivia and I headed out of Friday Harbor and headed down south through the San Juan Channel on the lookout for any wildlife.

We reached the southern point of San Juan and admired the beautiful Cattle Point lighthouse.

Continuing out into open waters, we found a humpback whale! As we approached, the humpback slapped its tail against the surface of the water repeatedly! Wow! What a great way to start the day!

We watched as the whale calmed down and started to search around for some food, travelling slowly south. She took shallow dives and showed us her shiny black back. Her blow looked snow white as it exploded 20 feet into the air against the foggy gray mountains in the distance.

Then, the humpback suddenly got excited and started throwing her tail in the air! We call that either a “peduncle throw” or “cartwheel.” Then she repeatedly tail slapped and lobtailed for about 10 minutes! There were even a few inverted tail lobs as the whale laid on her back and slapped the back of her tail against the water! You could hear how powerful each slap was against the surface. It most likely carried its sound incredibly far throughout the surrounding waters. I’ve literally never seen this behavior here! So, Olivia and I were ecstatic!

With her tail waving in the air, we were able to identify the humpback as MMX0006 also known as “Double Drop.” Each fluke is unique so we’re able to look at our extensive photo identification catalogue and know who’s who! And, this is incredibly rare, but some of the boats were able to detect mammary glands as she showed us her body! So, we have a confirmation that she is, in fact, a female!

It seemed like the whole boat was cheering on the whale. It’s always so fun to see wildlife making people so happy.

Eventually, we headed back up north and passed by Long Island. Here we found two bald eagles! They sat up in their separate trees as they peered at our boat behind some branches. They scanned the water for any potential prey. Nearby, we spotted their massive nest perched in the trees. It was so huge! But, some nests get even bigger and can reach around 2,000 pounds!

We continued and spotted some harbor seals lounging along the shoreline. They were very well camouflaged, but their flopping proved that they were not just logs!

Then, we spotted Steller sea lions! These animals always bring smiles to everyone on board. These hefty animals crawl around the island, run into each other and fill the air with their barks. They’re quite amusing to watch as they lug their weight around and jump into the water.

Finally, we headed back to the harbor, but wow! What an incredible day!