May 12, 2019

Humpback-palooza up north! Whale Watching from Friday Harbor

humpback whale flukes

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

What a spectacular day out on the water! Naturalist Piper, Captain Pete, and I had a great Mother’s Day trip exploring the Salish Sea! We great weather and great wildlife kicking around as of late it was bound to be a great day! We left Friday Harbor and headed north towards Boundary Pass and East Point. This time of year the southern stretches of the Strait of Georgia have amazing prey abundance for all sorts of critters, so it seemed like a good place to start to look for wildlife.

As we pointed north we caught glimpses of harbor porpoise surfacing around us and got to enjoy the amazing scenery. As we crossed Boundary Pass we noticed a huge blow rising off of the water and then a huge tail in the air a humpback whale dove! Captain Pete quickly called another whale watch boat in the area and asked them to come help us scan for the next surfacing from the whale. It’s always exciting to be the boat who finds any sort of wildlife. We’re an incredibly cooperative industry and all of our reports are shared between the Pacific Whale Watch Association member companies. After about seven minutes the humpback whale came back up to the surface for another breath, from over a half mile away we could hear the shear power of the animal’s exhale. We got a few looks at the whale before pointing north again because another humpback had been reported. Later on this whale was identified as and uncatalogued individual known as “Apollo” the 2010 calf of BCY0172 “Horizon.” Apollo has been confirmed as female after a giving birth to a male calf in 2018 known as “Nova.”

We found the other reported humpback, which turned out to be two humpbacks (!), up between Patos Island Light and East Point on Saturna Island. The two whales turned out to be two of our local favorites BCY0160 “Heather” and BCY0458 “Raptor.” These two whales are known to associate on the feeding grounds up here in the Salish Sea, often hanging out with one another for days, even weeks! For the most part humpback whales are solitary animals after weaning from their mothers at about a year of age, but occasionally we see these long-standing relationships develop between individuals. We got to witness several fluke-up dives from the whales, it was a breathtaking encounter.

In addition to the humpbacks we also had some great looks at bald eagles, Steller’s sea lions, harbor porpoise, and harbor seals. It was a fantastic way to spend a day, and even more fun to share all of the wildlife with a great group of people!