July 12, 2019

Four Humpbacks Feeding in Canadian Waters!

Laura C. | 7-12-2019 | M/V Sea Lion | 1:30pm

We had an awesome day aboard M/V Sea Lion!  With bright sunshine, blue skies and calm seas our vessel headed north to Canadian waters!  Suddenly a pair of humpbacks were spotted near North Pender Island!  We saw their exhalations from quite a distance and were thrilled to see fluking from both individuals!  As they brought their tails up towards the sky, a waterfall of saltwater fell over the edge of their flukes and quickly dissipated back to the emerald seas.  Passengers appreciated the sheer size of these giant leviathans as they effortlessly made their way though the water column. 

These two individuals were easily distinguished by the contrasting shape of their dorsal fins.  The first individual to bring up her tail was a female by the name of Heather.  Her dorsal fin had a slightly more rounded shape than her companion.  Other than looking for the unique coloration patterns on the underside of a humpback whale’s fluke, we can also examine the shape of each dorsal fin to identify individuals.  There are other cues like scars, nicks, or obvious markings that can help us distinguish between them.  Other than changes due to trauma, each whale’s fin will remain the same from birth.  This is different from the killer whale as male dorsal fins will grow to about 6 feet tall once they reach their teenage years.

After watching these two individuals we decided to venture west and see what other wildlife we could find.  Our captain brought us on quite a trip today, maneuvering around the sandbar Sidney Spit.  There we found two additional humpback whales feeding!  These two whales were traveling through the water more quickly than the first pair and were on a mission!  As one individual surfaced, we were able to see water pouring out of the sides of his/her mouth, a fantastic example of active filter feeding!  These humpback whales will have to gain about 12,000lbs per season to sustain them over the wintering months.  This annual migration to warm Hawaiian waters is a key component for humpback whale behavior and these whales have the body to support such an extreme fast.  These tropical waters are nutrient poor and do not contain the abundance of small schooling fish found in northern waters! 

Today was a humpback-filled voyage with four whales in just one trip!  We also saw harbor porpoise cruising around and a harbor seal right as we made it back into Friday Harbor!

Filed by:

Lead Naturalist/ Manager of Science Education and Outreach


Sea Lion


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