June 28, 2021

Feeding Frenzy with 4 Minke Whales, Harbor Seals, and Pelagic Birds!

Minke Whale Lunge Feeding

Haleigh | M/V Sea Lion | June 28, 2021 | 2:00pm

 

Given today was one of the hottest days on San Juan Island, our boat full of passengers stoked to be on the water. The cool breeze hit us as we left Friday Harbor and the chill set in as we traveled southbound through San Juan Channel, passing harbor porpoise along the way. Entering the Strait of Juan de Fuca felt like an entirely new land. It was more than 30 degrees cooler and the hazy sky blurred all of the distinguishing features around us, making it hard to see the Olympic Peninsula, Koma Kulshan (aka Mount Baker), or Victoria, BC. Despite the haze towards the distance, we were able to observe our marine surroundings just fine.

 

We traveled towards Hein bank first, checking out the shallower waters that teem with wildlife. Surrounded by Rhinoceros Auklets and Gulls, we knew we were in the right place. We spotted our first baleen whale -- a Minke Whale! The baleen plates found within their mouths allow them to filter feed on silver, finger-sized schooling fish like sand lances, herring, and juvenile salmon. Within minutes we laid eyes on a second Minke Whale surfacing nearby. We watched as they fed near our boat, circling from our port side around to the starboard. We decided to move on towards Salmon Bank, another hotspot for Minkes and other feasting wildlife. Within moments of arriving at Salmon Bank a Minke whale lunged through the water’s surface, showing off its mustache-shaped baleen plates! Following the thousands of birds helped us spot our 3rd, and eventually our 4th, Minke Whale! It was quite an experience being in the midst of this multi-species feeding frenzy… a total feast for the senses.

 

With the large tidal changes that come as a result of the full moon, Captain Sarah effortlessly  navigated the floating driftwood washed out into the channels. I think everyone would agree that the best place to be in a heat wave like this is out on the water!