Laura C. | M/V Sea Hawk | 7/31/21019 | 2:00pm
Today was an outstanding trip out of Roche Harbor! M/V Sea Hawk carried passengers for only a few minutes before we had our first whale sighting! We were so excited to hear reports that there was a humpback whale right outside the harbor! Captain Sarah heard the news from a research vessel manned by The University of Washington and U.C Davis, studying whale scat!
As we approached the scene we all lifted our binos to see research canine, Eba, standing proudly at the bow fully suited with her life jacket! This research team trains selected canines through a rigorous program to detect all different types of whale species from miles away, aiding scientists with their ongoing research! Whale scat analysis, aka poop studies, allows scientists to learn so much about their physiology and behavioral patterns. By analyzing the content of these samples we can determine prey selectivity, hormone analysis, reproductive status, toxin exposure, and so much more!
The research team slowly trailed behind this whale as the humpback foraged through the water column and beautifully orchestrated 4 ½ minute dive times! Dive times can be tracked while awaiting a beloved whale to surface from the altering depths below, as their consistency is mainly determined by active behavior. This humpback whale gave us awesome looks at prime foraging behavior and we could see the salt water pouring out the sides of his/her mouth during each surfacing. As we followed this humpback on the west side of Stewart Island heading north, we were taken a back by the beautiful scenery around us! The lighthouse on the island created a sublime backdrop as this whale completed each surfacing with a beautiful fluke in the air!
Our day was not over yet! We continued on, and as we looked for wildlife the wildlife ended up finding us! A harbor seal weanling curiously approached the stern of our vessel and was vocalizing, hoping for some much-needed socialization! This little one is now old enough to be on his/her own and probably was missing the comforts of mom, and was looking for affection! We didn’t stay long as it is best for this youngster to learn the way of the Salish Seas without human influence or interaction. However, there were plenty of other seals to be found in the area and as we saw all the other individuals basking around the islands I had confidence that this weanling would be alright! Other wildlife sightings included harbor porpoises, bald eagles and pelagic birds. It was a gorgeous day out on the water!