June 10, 2019

Humpback Whales in the Strait of Juan de Fuca

Humpback Whale near Victoria

Olivia | June 10, 2019 | M/V Kestrel | 11:00am

Today was incredibly gorgeous; sunny and 70! We received word of whale sightings south of San Juan Island in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, so we decided to head down there, admiring Cattle Point Lighthouse as we entered the large body of water. Not far south of San Juan we slowed down when we were suddenly surrounded by Harbor Porpoises! I love stumbling along big feeding frenzies when they are primarily solitary animals. This was in a current heavy area where there is a lot of upwelling of nutrients off the sea floor that feeds their prey. We decided not to stay long since our whale sighting was pushing our time limit.

On route to find the Humpback Whale, we came across a Minke Whale! This was exceptionally exciting not only because it was unexpected, but because many of our passengers spotted it right away! They are considered “slinky minkes” since they are harder to spot with no large exhale above the water like many of our other cetaceans. Not far from the Minke Whale we also spotted a Harbor Seal swimming around in the water. This was neat to see because they were near a small bait ball. Bait balls are identified by birds feeding just above the surface of the water. The smaller fish encompassing this bait ball often bring in larger marine mammals!

We did not stay long so we could make it over to this Humpback Whale! The backdrop to all the photos were incredible. The Olympic Mountain Range was so clear and sharp, it was the perfect combination with the sunshine. The Humpback Whale we viewed was close to Victoria and identified as “Scratchy.” Scratchy is in our “Y” category of Humpbacks where there is a blend of white and black coloration underneath the tail fluke. This individual was busy feeding, diving often to gain his 3,000-pound food intake for the day, so we decided to carry on and see what else was out there.

Near Cattle Point on Whale Rocks we found many Steller’s Sea Lions! Not only did we see many swimming around and feeding in bait balls (attempting to catch a bird or two) we also saw them roosted on the coastal line bellowing and sunbathing. Personally, I witnessed the largest one I have seen yet! Extra remarkable since they are the largest sea lions in the world maxing out around 12 feet long and 2,400 pounds! This viewing excited the whole boat! Beautiful sunshine, sharp mountainous views, and a diverse array of marine mammals, you couldn’t go wrong on a day like this!