November 30, 2019

Humpback Pair Fluking Along Stewart Island!

Laura C. | M/V Sea Lion | 11/29/19 | 12:00pm

Today was so much fun out on the water!  We boarded M/V Sea Lion and headed north into the San Juan Channel.  Our first wildlife sighting was a bald eagle on Flattop Island, sitting out in the open on a large boulder.  It was an awesome experience to see it take off from the rock and gently land into a tree branch above.  Across the way, we stopped to view a large congregation of harbor seals.  There was a beautiful white harbor seal seated perfectly along the rocks and resting comfortably.  Some of them were swimming in the chilly seas, looking surprisingly relaxed for such a cold November day!

Our next destination was a tour through the Cactus Islands.  This is a well-known spot for nesting bald eagles, harbor seals, and harbor porpoises.  There were some cool pelagic birds in this area but no marine mammals, so we continued north.  Stewart Island brought the luck today and we found a pair of traveling humpbacks!  These beautiful animals were surfacing every 4 minutes and gracefully fluking right next to our vessel!  We had glorious views of these leviathans right along our port side and had such an appreciation for their enormous size!  I love when we get such close views passengers can see their stovebolts.  These are tiny lumps located on the top of humpback whales’ heads each contains a single hair follicle with sensory nerve endings.  Good comparisons are cats whiskers, helping the animal detect changes in the environment around them.  Humpback whales have a double nostril or blowhole, like all other baleen whales.  This was pointed out as they came alongside us and let us peer over their heads.  The first whale to go on a dive had a mostly black underside but with some white scarring, especially along the medial aspect.  The second fluke was all-black with a small divot on the left side of the trailing edge.  These indicators help us to identify humpbacks as individuals in the photo-identification catalog.  After we said a final goodbye to our gentle giants, we continued on for some exotic wildlife viewing along Spieden Island!  A few more bald eagles were found here, finishing up our marine adventure for the day and everyone left happy campers!