May 9, 2019

A Gray(t) Day in the Salish Sea! Gray Whales near San Juan Island

Mt. Baker

Sarah | 05/09/2019 | M/V Sea Lion | 12:00pm

Today we had an awesome day on the Salish Sea. We were graced with just incredible spring weather, so much sunshine and smooth water. With an early morning report of gray whales to our southeast, Captain Pete and I decided to point that way! As we traveled south through San Juan Channel and then out into confluence of Haro Strait and the Strait of Juan de Fuca we were treated to awesome views of our surrounding mountains, including Mt. Baker, the Olympic Peninsula, and even Mt. Rainier.

We pointed across the huge expanse of water towards Whidbey Island. From a couple miles away, we started to see the blows of a gray whale hanging above the surface. As we arrived on scene we realized that we had not one, not two, but three gray whales feeding in the silty shallows surrounding the island. Gray whales are in their own genus, Eschrichtius, within the mysticetes, or other baleen whales. These lightly colored whales are the only species of baleen whale to feed benthically, or from the sea floor. Around in the Salish Sea our gray whales are known to eat ghost shrimp out of the eastern shores’ shallow waters. As we watched the wakes they surfaced and dove in only 40 feet of water. All around us we had harbor porpoise surfacing, and we even got to see a mother duck with her hoard of ducklings.

After leaving the gray whales, we enjoyed a smooth crossing back towards the San Juans, with great seabirds, including rhinoceros auklets and pigeon guillemots, and lots of sunshine. As we got into the southern stretches of the San Juan Islands we got great views of some harbor seals, more harbor porpoise, and even some Steller’s sea lions.

It was another spectacular day spent in the Salish Sea, I can’t wait to see what tomorrow holds!