Today’s trip was a true 3-in-1 special! What started out as an already fabulous day with equally fabulous reports of southern resident killer whales nearby San Juan Island, turned into a plethora of all sorts of whale species in completely unexpected places!
As soon as we pulled out of the dock in Friday Harbor and exited the mouth of the harbor, a report of a gray whale moving southwards in San Juan Channel sprung up. Unbelievably, this animal was directly in our route to the previously reported orcas on the southwest corner of San Juan Island!
We headed south from the harbor and made our way down the channel. Before we had even gone a few miles, we were spotting the tall blow of the gray whale ahead of us. The cloud of mist got closer and closer until we were watching this 40-foot-long animal’s fluke rise out of the water for a graceful dive just as we approached the scene. We watched this young gray whale, a rare visitor for our waters, until it led us out of Cattle Pass. We turned west, away from the path of the gray whale, to pursue an orca report farther offshore of San Juan Island.
When we arrived in the area of the reported killer whales, we were met with a scattering of residents from both K and L pod all along the south side of the island a few miles offshore. We got some amazing looks at adult males Solstice and Mega, as well as some mom/calf pairs, including K pod’s youngest calf, Ripple!
After observing at least 20 orcas feeding and playing on either side of our vessel, we started our journey back to Friday Harbor. We stopped at Whale Rocks on our way back to pay a visit to some Steller Sea Lions that were hauled out there. As we listened to them growl at each other, we received yet another whale report in the area – two humpbacks heading directly towards Friday Harbor!
With shock and excitement, we continued north towards home, only to stop directly at the mouth of the harbor to watch two humpback whales traveling slowly southwards in the same direction as the gray whale we observed previously. On one side of our boat, we could see the sailboats moored in the harbor. On the other side were two 50-foot long animals fluking out as they dived over and over again on their way to the Strait of Juan de Fuca. It truly was an extraordinary sighting!
When we finally did turn away to make the rest of our short journey back to the dock, we felt as if we had completed three completely different and equally stunning whale watches all in the short course of three and a half hours. It was an absolutely magnificent day like no other day this season!
Naturalist Sarah C.
M/V Sea Lion