June 18, 2010

What a beautiful day it was in the sunny San Juans! We’d gotten reports that our resident killer whales were spread out all along the W side of SJI, and so we went south to meet up with a group not far off Cattle Point. The sun’s glares made it difficult to ID many individuals, but it was helping us to stay warm and even get a bit of color so it was a fair trade! K21 Cappuccino was confirmed, and we believe there were a few L pod males among them as well. We were all enjoying watching them forage and play, when all of the sudden out of no where a juvenile minke whale surfaced not two feet away from our port side! We were shocked by this unexpected visitor, and watched in amazement as “he” rolled on his side, showing us his ventral grooves (throat pleats), a characteristic shared by all rorquals (a type of baleen whale). He slowly made his way under the Odyssey, and we spotted his white markings just a few feet below the surface along our starboard side. He slowly surfaced once again, providing an excellent opportunity for our guests to view a whale in such detail. Some guests commented on the fishy smell in the air – the reason behind the nickname “stinky minke!” Our minke friend circled around us a bit more, then we spotted him amongst the residents, surfacing within a few feet of the them. There must have been some great feeding going on! As our encounter came to an end, we watched a few calves playing together, with several small flukes popping out of the water. Word on the radio was that our minke had moved on to check out another boat, a curious whale indeed! What an incredibly unexpected encounter, and a great opportunity for our guests to get up close and personal with a wild whale!

Heather Hill, Naturalist San Juan Excursions

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