May 28, 2009

A Three Hour Tour...or More

Wow, what a day. Our sun was back in full force today and the rough waters that we have been braving in the Strait of Juan de Fuca have given way to a lovely calm. The Orcas are still off on a whirlwind tour of the open ocean, but that did not stop us from seeing whales.

Capt. Nancy, Jeanette and myself motored South with a happy, lively group of visitors aboard the MV Sea Lion. We were off to investigate reports of a lone Gray Whale feeding off of the beach on Whidbey Island just South of the naval air station. Cattle Pass was a dream as we headed past the lighthouse and the effect was intensified when we spotted Mt. Rainier in the distance. Everywhere that we looked there were majestic mountains; Mt. Baker, the Cascades, Mt. Rainier and the Olympic range all surrounded us. As we headed towards Admiralty Inlet and Whidbey Island we got ever changing views of the topography and waters of the Puget Sound watershed region.

We met up with our fellow wildlife watching companies and the whale in just 40 feet of water. It was a lone gray that was slowly surfacing and diving only +100 yards from shore. It would take a series of breaths and then dive down to scoop up the thick mud from the bottom that is so rich with shrimp and plankton. We were timing the dives at about 3.5 minutes in length with 3 to 4 breaths at the surface before each dive. We got some great looks at the barnacle and crustacean load that the whale was carrying and we even saw a little bit of the fluke as it dove under.

After our sojourn with the whale we headed for Lopez Island and a cruise along the coastline. We came across several groups of foraging Harbor Porpoises and we were lucky enough to have them continue their behavior rather than swimming away. There was a beautiful Bald Eagle on Long Island and lots of Harbor Seals on Whale Rocks. After that it was a trip up the channel between San Juan and Lopez Islands and back into the harbor.

All-in-all we covered 40 miles and saw what a wonder the Pacific Northwest is. So, from all of us at San Juan Safaris to all of you, thank you and we will...

See You In The Islands!
~Tristen, Naturalist

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