Sunday, November 18, 2012

A Day With the Humpbacks, Anacortes, WA - October 2012


If you've been following my blog you know that I went to Washington state to visit my sister a few weeks ago. We left the week open so we could plan as we went except for this whale watching tour. We knew we wanted to get out on the water and M had heard good things about Island Adventures out of Anacortes, WA, only 15 minutes from her house. Plus, many of the other companies were done for the year but this one runs tours on the weekends through November. M had AAA and we got a discount for booking online so it was about $85 per ticket and the tour would be 5-6 hours.

The day was chilly, but clear with the most beautiful clouds as we bundled up and headed to the docks. I'd been on two whale watching trips before. The first time we saw a Fin Whale but they are so fast that we didn't get much time with it before it was gone. The second time we saw many dolphins, but no whales. Still, I knew it would be great to be out on the water for hours whether we saw anything or not.

Our first wildlife sighting was of a mature bald eagle sitting on a navigational marker and as impressive as they had been the day before from Mt. Erie, it was great to see one stationary. They are so majestic. And look at those talons!

Photo by Michael Colahan
I also spotted a Minke Whale for just an instant before it was gone.

The other boat tours I'd been on were out in the open ocean off the coast of California, but this one was in the Puget Sound Basin which has many straits. It was almost otherworldly to be surrounded by small islands and to see the mountains of the Olympic Peninsula in the distance. Breathtaking!




After a couple of hours when we were in Canadian waters near Victoria, BC the crew started getting word of some humpback whales up ahead. It turned out to be two adults and a calf and we got to spend over an hour just watching them! The crew speculated that they weren't taking deep dives as often because of the calf which meant they spent a lot of time on the surface.




Once we got close we had to cut the engine, but at one point the whales were coming towards us and they were close enough that we could smell their fishy breath. The most amazing part was when they began to have what looked like an argument - we could hear them trumpeting and see their tail throws.

Here are the photos one of the crew members took:

Photo by Michael Colahan
Photo by Michael Colahan
After the "argument" ended, one of the adults went one way and the other adult stayed with the calf. Because of the tail markings, the crew later identified the whale with the calf as BCY0326, a whale that is sometimes seen in these waters.

I had no complaints about the company. The trip was professionally run by the captain and crew. Everything went very smoothly and it was educational and fun. It was great to hear the excitement in the voices of the scientists on board as we spent time with the humpbacks. It really impressed on me how infrequently this kind of thing happens. We were so lucky! They also gave us a complimentary 64-page wildlife viewing guide. Here is the report by the tour company.

I'll leave you with another amazing sight. Michael, one of the scientists on the trip, told us about humpback whales bubble net feeding in Alaska. It sounded amazing so I looked it up on YouTube and it's incredible! Here's just one short video I found.

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