Gray Whale in the Salish Sea

Olivia | July 14th, 2019 | M/V Sea Hawk | 2:00pm

Heading out of Roche Harbor today, we stumbled across one of our Harbor Seals right as I was giving the wildlife talk about how to spot them, how perfect is that? The sun was shining, and it stayed awfully warm, especially since we didn’t have to travel far before we saw our first whale siting! Despite never getting too cold, I passed out blankets to all 7 passengers so we could stay nice and cozy the entire trip. We traveled south through the San Juan Channel until just about the entrance of Friday Harbor where we saw a Gray Whale!

Personally, I was thrilled about this since I have had yet to see one. Migrating between Mexico and Alaska, they typically hang down between Whidbey and Camano Islands. The interesting thing about these whales, is that they historically haven’t been around in the Salish Sea too often, and it is theorized that in times of food scarcity, they make a pit stop in our waters. Some of these individuals realize how lush our environment is and stay for most of the summer to continue feeding. These old baleen whales are bottom feeders and scoop up mouthfuls of sand and water to filter feed on the benthic creatures living on the sea floor. “Sounders” are about a dozen individuals that stick around our waters to feed on ghost shrimp and the ones we see return from year to year.

Another amazing feature to this tour, was not only seeing how often this whale surfaced for air, but the fact that it fluked with every dive! Most commonly, Gray Whales will not fluke and that typical whale fluke image that we often think about resides from a Humpback Whale. It came further north for us to see, surfaced and fluked often, and on top of those two remarkable things already, it was also a new individual we haven’t seen in our waters before! Captain Erick and I were over the moon about this siting.

On our route back we saw heaps of Harbor Seals everywhere, a few Harbor Porpoises sneaking in and out, and about 9 Bald Eagles that we counted around Flattop, Spieden, and Cactus Islands. A glorious day and magnificent wildlife; we can definitely count this trip on Sea Hawk a win!