June 1, 2021

Divot, Big Mama and palpable silence.

Humpback Whale

Maxx K. | M/V Kestrel | 06/01/2021 | 2:00


I woke up this morning with one of those unexpected, unwarranted gut feelings that today was going to be awesome. Today we were going to see something really special. And that we did. 

We set out of Friday Harbor heading north. Like days prior, we were getting reports of whales off Saturna Island, hugging the US/Canadian border. 

Now historically, because of the Right of Free Passage, this would be absolutely no stress. However, given the pandemic, we can no longer pass into Canadian waters. So if these whales decided to shift in towards Canada, we would simply have to wave them goodbye at the border. With our fingers crossed we continued north, anxiously holding our breaths that we might be so lucky to catch a sight of these whales. 

There were three humpback whales on scene: BCX1075 (Divot), her calf, and local celebrity, BCY0324 (Big Mama).

We slowed early as Divot and her calf surfaced for breaths off our port. Like clockwork her calf would rise and spout and Divot would follow a few moments later. It’s incredible to imagine how hard working humpback mothers are. To think they haven’t eaten for months, are nursing a newborn 100 gallons of milk per/day, all the while journeying thousands of miles towards their next opportunity to feed. I tip my hat to you, Divot. You are spectacular.

We left Divot and her calf after a few minutes, turning to search the horizon for Big Mama who had been spotted nearby. 

One of my favorite aspects of working as a naturalist is the silence that falls over a boat as the engine is turned off and we all wait with baited breath to spot a whale. It’s the loudest, most palpable silence I’ve ever encountered and I love it. After a few moments, that silence was extinguished as Big Mama surfaced right at our bow. 

(Full disclosure, I crumpled to the floor in excitement) 

    Big Mama was one of the first humpbacks reported to arrive back to the Salish Sea in the late 90’s. She’s been here several times, frequently ushering a calf of her own. She’s a big whale, almost 50 feet long, and she is passing right across our bow. It was absolute magic. 

    We admired her for several more minutes before turning away and making our way back to Friday Harbor. We truly could not ask for a better day out on the Salish Sea.