July 28, 2019

A Humpback Whale in the Strait of Georgia!

Erin | M/V Sea Lion | Saturday, July 27, 2019 | 1:30PM 

It was a lovely afternoon in the Salish Sea. We began our trip heading north out of Friday Harbor. We headed up San Juan Channel and got some great views of the surrounding islands as we made our way toward Boundary Pass. As we went up the channel, we saw many harbor porpoises coming up to the surface as they travelled. Harbor porpoises are one of the smallest porpoises in the world. They can dive to depths of 400 feet and hold their breath for about 6 minutes. We also saw some baitballs as we went through the channel, which are gatherings of birds at the surface of the water because of the presence of schools of fish underneath them. We eventually found ourselves in Boundary Pass, crossing the border into Canadian water! 

We went along the southern side of Saturna Island, and got some amazing views of some of the cliffs that were carved out by glaciers. We then made our way to Georgeson Pass, which is an incredible passageway through Saturna and Mayne Islands. Once we went through the pass, we saw the Vancouver skyline, and we saw a group of boats gathered. We knew they must be looking at what we made the trip up north for-a humpback whale! We went towards the boat and didn't spot a humpback whale for a couple of minutes, but then we saw its dorsal fin and backside pop up out of the water! It exhaled and its blow was about 10-15 feet tall. They are such massive and powerful animals. The whale quickly dove down, but about 5 minutes later we saw it come back up! This time when it dove down, we got to see it bring its tail up out of the water. It was incredible. The last encounter we had with the whale, it surprised us and came up behind us, where nobody was looking. We turned our vessel toward it and got a great look at it! This time we got to see part of the underside of its tail, which appeared to be mostly black. Humpback whales each have a unique fluke, which allows for researchers to inidividually identify them. It was awesome to see a humpback whale in its natural environment!

As we made our way back to Friday Harbor, we went back through Georgeson Pass. Once we got back into the U.S., we stopped by a rock near Flattop Island called Gull Rock. Gull Rock had some harbor seals resting on it. Some of them had some pups along with them, which are about 1 foot long and 25 pounds when they are born. There were also some seals swimming around in the water. It was a magnificent day of viewing wildlife! Until next time, folks!

Naturalist Erin