May 30, 2021

Breaching Humpback Whale Trio in the Strait of Georgia

Humpback Whale in Salish Sea

Olivia | M/V Osprey | May 30th, 2021 | 12:30pm

Our sunny Sunday started off with heaps of Pigeon Guillemots exploring the inner Friday Harbor as we slowly made our way out of the hustle and bustle of the holiday traffic. Scouting out reports from multiple directions around the San Juan Islands, we made the decision to head north up San Juan Channel in the direction of the outer islands!

We were able to pass not only more Pigeon Guillemots, but also Rhinoceros Auklets, a variety of gulls, Common Murres, and cormorants. Approaching Boundary Pass where the United States and Canadian borders meet up, we admired the glassy seas reflecting the sun rays off every subtle flutter of the water, and more excitedly, the chocolate chip dorsal fins of dozens of Harbor Porpoise! Off to our left, we found ourselves with a lighthouse on both the port and starboard sides of the vessels, one in each country! On our port, was the lighthouse residing on East Point of Saturna Island, and to our starboard, Patos Island Lighthouse with Koma Kulshan (Mount Baker) standing as a sharp backdrop to Isla de Patos.

We started noticing two orange whale watching vessels in Canadian waters, marking where we had reports of baleen whales slowly traveling north. Since the border is still closed due to Covid-19, we had to stay viewing from U.S waters. This was no problem because these Humpback Whales were wily! We were able to see Divot with her new, young calf traveling with Big Mama. Not only were we seeing giant spouts about the water from all three whales, but they were all fluking with every dive, and averaging 2 minute dive times. This makes for lots of surface viewing and little time waiting as they feed below the surface. This young calf decided to play a while where we saw cartwheels just below the water, that (already) large fluke trailing sideways waving our way. All of a sudden, the calf breached into the air backwards, making a giant splash. Just as our excited calls started to dissipate, the calf breached again! Even from the distance, we would hear the smack of the marine mammal as it came falling back down.

We were all still shaking with excitement as we worked our way back towards San Juan Island. This gave myself and my co-naturalist an opportunity to walk around showing ID’s of the whales via the iPad from the photo identification catalog, as well as some visual models of whale physiology. We strive for education on our vessels, and of course, a fun time enjoying not only the wildlife that call these waters home, but the scenery that follows us wherever we go. Happiest 13th birthday to one of our passengers! Breaching Humpback Whales, warm, sunny skies, and a tall volcano in view- I would say this was a day to remember for all of us.