May 22, 2010

Hump Day

It was whales again today, but this time it was two humpbacks along the west side of San Juan Island.  That makes three different whale species in two days spotted here in the San Juan Islands!  Wow, what a cool place.  It is exceptionally cool when you think about the fact that humpbacks are rare here around the islands.  Normally, if they come into the Salish Sea they do not make it past Victoria Harbor.  Today was our day though and we took advantage of it.  And, as if seeing the whales was not enough, 15 minutes after we arrived on scene the juvenile whale breached three times in a row.  I abandoned all trappings of civility at that point and squealed and clapped and jumped up and down.  My first humpback breach and it was by a youngster.  People on other boats probably heard me losing my mind.  Luckily, Capt. Bill is used to my antics and Casey took it all in stride.  The guests thought I was a little strange though.

As we followed the mother and juvenile pair up the island they would alternate between coming up for breaths together and separately.  The youngster was small enough that his blows were hard to see and did not hang in the air for very long.  The mother was a big adult though and finally moved into waters deep enough that when she went down on a dive we were allowed a view of her tail fluke.  When whales roll down for a deep dive, because there body is nearly vertical, their tail comes up out of the water.  For those of us viewing them, it gives us a chance to photograph the fluke, possibly for identification purposes, and signals that the animal will be underwater for several minutes.

The pair worked their way north and we finally left them as they started along the coastline of Stuart Island.  We never did see any other humpbacks or get reports of any others in the area, so it is unclear whether these two animals were truly alone or not.  Casey, having worked with whales on the East Coast, says that it is rare to see just two like that, especially in this secluded area where they would not normally travel.  It is possible for them to eventually work their way back to the Pacific by going north, but most likely they will turn around some time in the night, maybe with the tidal change, and head back out through the mouth of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  If not, maybe we will get to see them again tomorrow.

So, from all of us at San Juan Safaris, to all of you whale lovers out there, thank you and we will...

See You In The Islands!

~Tristen, Naturalist