August 15, 2022

Zig-zagging Humpback Whale and Puffins a plenty

Maxx K. | M/V Kestrel | 008/15/2022 | 12:30pm
Today was a stunner! My goodness was it beautiful out- the sun was out and proud, Baker, Reiner and the Olympics stood boldly over the Juan de Fuca and seas were as calm as could be (we LOVE that). Kestrel carefully meandered out of Friday Harbor and zipped south through the San Juan Channel. It didn’t take too long for us to make our first stop at a haul out of Harbor Seals.
We most often see these pinnipeds hauled out on rocky coastal shorelines surrounded by forests of bull kelp. Bull kelp is incredible- not only is it delicious when pickled, it protects our coastlines from intense erosion, AND it very effectively removes carbon and nitrogen from the atmosphere, reducing some of the negative side effects of global warming! In regards to our harbor seals though, it provides critical habitat and added protection from Bigg’s Killer Whales. We didn't linger too long as a rumor of a humpback whale sent us out of Cattle Pass and out towards McArthur bank.
Now, of course, I have no idea what this whale was actually getting up to during its eight minute dives. It is fair to imagine this massive forty foot whale was likely feeding! Unlike toothed whales, baleen whales lack a fixed lower jaw. This allows them to expand their lower jaws (much like a snake or frog might) and lunge at large schools of fish, trap them behind their long sheets of baleen and toss it all back!
I like to think this was happening below us, a coordinated feeding ballet in between surfacings for breath. We watched this whale for a good while before carrying off towards another exciting report: tufted puffins!
This was only my second time ever seeing a puffin and soon enough we were surrounded by more than 20! Puffins aren’t a common sight on our tours as they’re most typically hugging the shores of Smith Island, several miles below Lopez. Several of them surrounded Kestrel, periodically diving below the surface and exposing their bright orange webbed feet.
We concluded the tour by winding our speedy vessel through the gorgeous southern coast of Lopez island, stopping briefly to check out the roccous sea lions at Whale rocks before safely tying up to the jetty at Friday Harbor.