July 9, 2019

Humpback Whales in Canadian Waters!

Laura C. | 7-9-2019 | M/V Kestrel | 11:00am

A picturesque mountainous scene was in store for all aboard M/V Kestrel today!  The weather along the Salish Sea turned swells and whitecaps of the Pacific Ocean into transparent glass, creating a mirror image of all the beauty surrounding our vessel.  This sparkling emerald liquid was a nice contrast to the rocky snowy edges of Mount Baker and northern jagged mountain ranges.  Our boat sliced a clean cut through the water as we made our way to Canadian waters west of Point Roberts.

The Salish Sea is one of the most biodiverse areas found in the world.  These waters are home to an array of unique species that utilize the smaller prey such as krill, sandlance and herring.  One of these great leviathans is the humpback whale!  And we had a pair of humpbacks foraging in this prey abundant area today!  Sea conditions were ideal for observing these breath-taking creatures, allowing passengers to examine their long, flat backs and unique dorsal fins.  A few times we were able to observe their heads come up out of the water as they inhaled and exhaled, revealing tiny bumps towards the front of their faces.  These bumps contain hair follicles with sensory nerve endings to help these whales maneuver through the water and detect prey.  I relate them to cat’s whiskers.  In nutrient rich water like the Salish Sea, visibility may only be 10-15 feet, driving humpbacks to rely on methods other than eyesight to travel through the water column.

These humpbacks were quite active today and it was so exciting to witness a tail breach and some tail slapping!  It gave us a much better idea of how large these rotund animals truly are!  Humpbacks carry about 1 ton of barnacles and parasites on their bodies at a time so breaching can be helpful to shake those pesky critters off.  It can also be a method of communication, as one can only imagine what a large sound 45 tons of weight hitting the water’s surface can make underwater!

Our trip was also filled with harbor seals and harbor porpoises, which is always an exiting addition to any day!  As our vessel traveled south, we had beautiful views of the lighthouse on Patos Island, accompanied by beautiful snowy mountains in the distance.   We also found a bald eagles’ nest!  These nests are quite a treat to see as you need to have quite an eagle eye to spot them!  A bald eagle was seen towering over the glass calm water below, maybe viewing some fish traveling several feet below and just out of talon’s reach!   It was a gorgeous day to adventure through the Salish Sea and be able to share all this diverse wildlife with everyone!