October 26, 2017
Persistence Pays Off! Humpbacks in the San Juan Islands
[Naturalist Sarah – 10/26/2017 – M/V Sea Lion – 12:00pm]
Today was a great example of why we never stop scanning the water as we travel through the Salish Sea. After a whirlwind adventure north into the Canadian Gulf Islands, our persistence was rewarded by an encounter with a pair of humpback whales.
Leaving Friday Harbor we headed north on the M/V Sea Lion. Captain Mike and I decided to head up into waters that hadn’t been covered by any whale watchers today. There had been no sightings to the south… why not try the north. Under stunning blue skies, with a stiff autumn breeze, it was a beautiful day to be cruising the islands. As we reached Flattop Island we encountered a flock of small Bonaparte’s gulls. The tiny gulls were dipping and diving and swooping through the air, skimming food off of the surface.
The Search is On
We pressed further north towards Boundary Pass and Saturn Island, and elected to head to East Point and Boiling Reef. Today we got a great taste of the sheer power of the tidal fluctuation in the area as we rounded the point. The rolling green waves were beautiful in the wide-open water. Poking our heads out into the open Strait of Georgia, Captain Mike and I scanned the horizon, looking for the telltale blows of whales… Nothing. We drove further north towards the Belle Chain Islets, where we had some great looks at harbor seals and Steller’s sea lions hauled out on the rocky shoreline. We even caught a glimpse of a pair of bald eagles perched on the top of a scrubby tree!
As we headed back south, inter-island and out of the wind, Mike and I were feeling the pressure… We really wanted to find some whales. We decided to hang a right into Boundary Pass to survey the waters around Pender Bluffs, and the North Side of Stuart Island. After surfing the wake of a Canadian naval ship, POOF! Humpback whales! We had a great encounter with the pair of massive whales as they pressed north across the US/Canadian Border.
On the way back towards Friday Harbor we found a lovely group of harbor porpoise, as well as a feeding Steller’s sea lion. It was another fabulous day in the San Juan Islands.
Enjoy some photos from the day!