August 7, 2016

Breach Day Saturday

Whales, whales, whales...we have a marvelously diverse marine ecosystem out here, but of course, sometimes we get to encounter the biggest marine mammals of all. Humpbacks, minkes, killer whales, gray whales...each day brings new sightings and new experiences! Sea Lion was up and running, ready for her two trips on this wonderful Saturday afternoon. Pulling out of Friday Harbor with the breeze tugging at our hair and sleeves, there was a feeling of anticipation and the taste of adventure on everyone's mind. Captain Mike, Naturalist Alex and I decided to head north up President's Channel, with sweeping views of the dramatic Orcas Island shoreline on our right and Waldron Island looming up on our left. There were rumors of transient killer whales up near East Point on Saturna Island, so we wanted to check it out.

And we just love when rumors like these prove to be true! A pod of transients were swimming around East Point in a tight formation, having just made a kill, and were surfacing frequently and delighting us with their beautiful blows. What exactly were these whales up to? Well, they no longer appeared to be hunting, so a peaceful swim through Tumbo Channel seemed to be on their minds. Their formation remained very tight as they headed north - absolutely mesmerizing. What a treat to encounter these transients, all within an hour's ride of Friday Harbor!

On our second trip, it was time to turn south and see the beautiful Cattle Point lighthouse as we headed out into the Strait of Juan de Fuca, humpbacks on our mind. Reports of these massive baleen whales led us south towards Dungeness Spit, and it wasn't long before we saw those 20 foot blows blasting into the air. Humpback whales never cease to amaze me - these animals have journeyed over 3000 miles in the past few months, just to make it back up to an area where they can eat! They've been spending their winters in the warmer waters south, in Hawaii, Mexico, and the Phillipines, where they mate and give birth, and now they've headed north to feed. It's always wonderful to see these animals in greater and greater numbers (they are endangered), and I hope we will continue to see more as the season unfolds!

But the highlight of this trip? An epic humpback breach with the dimming sunset lighting illuminating it's massive gray and white body. The residual splash of that 45 ton body hitting the water left us all stunned for a moment before we burst into cheers. That was THE FIRST breach I've seen all season! How incredible! We couldn't help but laugh and smile the whole way home, especially as we got to detour and see some large stellar sea lions and a bald eagle near Whale Rock by Lopez Island.

Transients, humpbacks, sea lions, eagles, seals...what will tomorrow bring?