California sea lions and Stellers and Humpbacks–oh my!

Friday, October 12, 2007


After filling up our water tanks and paying our harbor bill, we motored away from civilization at Port Angeles.  The team took turns on the bow searching for whales, while the rest of us listened hopefully to radio chatter and worked on data analysis.  After crossing the Strait of Juan de Fuca, we circled Race Rocks, taking photos and looking through binoculars at Stellers, California sea lions, and harbor seals.  We heard there were humpbacks not too far away so headed southeast to try to catch up with them.  As soon as we were able to spot blows and backs and flukes through our binoculars, we were able to hear the large whales breathing and sighing.  One individual whale had a particularly distinct, loud blow.  The humpbacks were very active at the surface, rolling and fluking before diving.  They were surrounded by a group of playful, porpoising Steller sea lions.  Although we deployed the hydrophones, the humpbacks were quiet.  We watched the whales and sea lions for almost three hours before regretfully, sailing away back towards San Juan Island.  As we headed north up to Snug Harbor for the night, a few Dall’s porpoises joined us for a sunset bowriding session.  Shannon and Alex cooked vegetarian fajitas for dinner and then Shannon gave a post-dinner talk on her thesis research on Australian sea lions.  We looked through Shannon’s photos from Antarctica and watched a short video of the humpback whales there bubble-net feeding before bed.

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