Minke whales are one of the most underrated cetacean species. No one ever says “let’s go whale watching for minke’s.” But if you’ve had the opportunity to actually see a minke whale, you’d think they were not only beautiful animals, but pretty darn cool as well.
Well today we had that opportunity! We left Friday Harbor headed south towards Hine Bank. It was absolutely beautiful! Warm, sunny, and the ocean surface was as smooth as glass. Along the way we were able to see a large group of harbor seals hauled out on a rocky island and a few harbor porpoises. As we reached Hine Bank, coordinates 48 degrees 20.80 minutes N, 123 degrees 04.089 minutes W, we slowed to almost a stop. Minke whales are difficult to spot because they have a low blow, a small dorsal fin, and if there are waves they tend to block our view. But, we definitely had no trouble today as a minke surfaced right ahead of our boat! And because the water was so flat we saw more of the body than I’d ever seen before.
We spent some time watching that lone minke surface and dive methodically around our boat before heading back towards Salmon Bank. Again, it didn’t take very long before we spotted two more minke whales! (Coordinates 48 degrees 24.53 minutes N, 122 degrees 59.06 minutes W). Their blows were audible and their smooth, rounded backs sliced through the glassy water again and again, keeping us mesmerized.
Heading back to San Juan Island gave us more wildlife viewing opportunities. Before docking we saw a lone Steller sea lion hauled out on whale rocks, and finally a beautiful bald eagle perched on top of Long Island that took flight just as we were pulling away. It was a truly amazing day!
Kristen, Naturalist, San Juan Safaris