Today was a spectacular day out on M/V Kestrel. Captain Brian and I had a wonderful group of guests onboard in search of wildlife! Kestrel feels like a time machine because we are able to cover so much water in the three-hour space of a trip.

Today we were one of the only boats from Friday Harbor to make it south to Port Angeles to see a humpback whale known as BCZ0298 “Split Fin” who frequents our waters here in that Salish Sea during the summer. Humpbacks can all be identified by their fluke patterns as well as by their flanks (sides) and dorsal fins on their backs. “Split Fin” as you can guess has an old gash through its dorsal fin that makes it very unique and easy to identify. We followed this ocean giant for about 40 minutes as the whale cruised out towards the mouth of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, marveling at the immense sound of the whale’s exhale over the still water.

humpback whale at the surface breathing

After “Split Fin” dove and brought its immense tail flukes to the surface we started to motor back towards San Juan Island with a subtle swell at out backs. On the way through Cattle Pass between San Juan and Lopez Islands we stopped at Whale Rocks to check out some Steller’s sea lions hauled out and napping. These massive pinnipeds, the largest of the sea lions, are just returning to our waters after a summer spent in Alaska.

Overall, it was just an amazing day out on the water, with sweeping views of the islands, the Olympic Peninsula, and the beautiful Straits that our marine mammals call home!

Lead Naturalist Sarah, M/V Kestrel, San Juan Safaris