September 29, 2019

Humpback Whale and Dall's Porpoises South of San Juan Island!

Piper | Sunday, September 29, 2019 | M/V Sea Lion | 12:00 PM

On today’s voyage into the Salish Sea, Captain Erick took me, Alexandria, and a great group of people down south through San Juan Channel toward the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Along the way we stopped at Whale Rocks in Cattle Pass where a huge haul-out of Steller’s sea lions was lounging about the rocks, soaking up the bits of sun poking through the clouds. They were so much fun to watch and we noticed while we were looking that way that many of them were also playing around in the water!

Continuing south we made our way to Mc Arthur Bank where we found a humpback whale that was slowly doing circles around the bank, and by the looks of all the seabirds floating around in the area, the whale was doing a ton of feeding under the glassy surface! We watched as the humpback rose to the surface again and again, arching its back nearly every time, which was cool, getting to see lots of the animal’s body, but it wasn’t taking deep dives, so its tail didn’t need to rise. The whale kept us in suspense right up until the end, a finale of its flukes breaking the surface and gracefully floating into the air before sinking below to the depths. How beautiful!

We left the whale and started searching the open waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, heading west and then north before stopping short; rooster tail splashes were shooting into the air, meaning only one thing: we’d found Dall’s porpoises! These bulky, black and white porpoises were shooting like rockets across the water, sending a spray behind them which is unmistakable. They slowed and we got to see their white-capped dorsal fins and chunky tailstocks cruise through the water as they came up for air. After some awesome looks we continued back toward Cattle Pass and San Juan Channel.

As we moved up the channel we stopped to see some harbor seals, the much smaller cousins of the Steller’s sea lions, hauled out on another rock, resting and getting their own sun! We chatted about the differences between the two types of pinnipeds and watched them scooch around their rock before heading back into the marina, but not before we saw a group of harbor porpoises swim right past us! What a great day!