May 24, 2018

Humpback Whale Day

Humpback Whale

[Wednesday, 5/23/18 - M/V Sea Lion - 12:00 - Naturalist Erick]


This Wednesday, Captain Pete and I headed north on another bright sunny day to the north. We made our first stop at Green Point on Spieden Island. Here, is a normal haul-out spot for Steller Sea Lions. Today, there was still around 8 left. They were all males of different ages lounging on the sunbaked rocks of the point. Soon though, all of these massive Steller Sea Lions will be gone as they migrate northward to their breeding grounds in Alaska. These blubbery pinnipeds growled at each other and stared back at us as we floated with the current further north towards the Cactus Islands. After leaving those goofy creatures we continued north. We crossed Boundary Pass and went into Swanson Channel. Here we soon saw some blows against the backdrop of the sheer sandstone cliffs rising out of the water which we call Pender Bluffs. It was two Humpback Whales traveling and feeding in the sound. These two were full grown adults so each about the length of the vessel we were on and a lot heavier. Again, it is not super common to see two Humpback Whales traveling together in this part of the world. They usually are traveling solo here but occasionally they group up especially if they know each other. Who doesn’t like a little company? We watched these two giants gently swim through the placid waters of Plumper Sound and fluke up a few times till they neared the northern point of Pender Island. Here we had to leave them Tubercles and all, but it was still amazing that we got to see them at all. Seeing Humpback Whales in this area is a bit of a success story. This whole area was a major whaling port for quite a while and all the large baleen whales were hunted out of the inland waters and not seen here for decades. After whales got protection almost worldwide in the 80’s we still did not see one in the Salish Sea until 2000. But ever since then more and more have come back here. Their population is growing in the north Pacific and it’s amazing to see them spread out into the corners of their historical ranges. After we left we headed back south. We passed by Turn Point Light on Stewart Island and made a stop at Sentinel Rocks to check out the plethora of Harbor Seals all sunning themselves on the rock there. After that we made one last pass by Spieden Island to check on around 6 Bald Eagles both perched and soaring up above before we made our way back home to Friday Harbor.


What another great spring day in the San Juans! Summer will be here soon!


Naturalist Erick

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