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Sea Monster or Whale?

Posted in Whales, Kayaking

The cold weather and short days that always come around this time of year has prompted me to dream of endless summer days spent kayaking in the San Juan Islands. I think about the flat water, the smell of sea salt and sunscreen, and the constant feeling of hope that I will be able to provide a kayak trip to vacationers that includes life changing wildlife experiences. Sometimes its an eagle swimming through the water. Sometimes its a salmon jumping out of the water while making its way back to its home rivers. And sometimes its a whale.

I recently read a blog post by the Pacific Whale Watch Association on Humpback whales. The post shared that 2021 set a record for the number of humpback whale calves in the Salish Sea. In a time where I am searching for good news in as many places as possible, this made me smile. It quickly brought me back to a day I spent with five guests on the west side of Henry Island.

We had been kayaking for a couple of days, camping and exploring Stuart Island. The trip was one of those perfect weekends; weather was 75 and sunny, the water was flat, and the tides were pushing us along nicely. We were coming up on a small beach where we were going to get out and stretch our legs. Suddenly, we all heard a “PFFFFFFFF” and I quickly turned to my right. A whale, one that I assumed was too small to be a humpback, had just surfaced for a breathe of air.

As you can imagine, a mix of emotions and thoughts goes through you when you spot a whale in the water with you. My first thought, of course, is: “A SEA MONSTER!!!!”

Fortunately, I did not let that thought escape me (it’s pretty awkward when you, a kayak guide, are caught thinking a whale is a real-life sea monster).

Instead, we ooohed and aahhhed and made our way to shore, turning quickly to see a much larger “sea creature” (the humpback calf’s mom) breathe a minute later.

I asked our one of our guides to share her favorite humpback experience, which happens to be how we got the beautiful photo above. Here is what she said: “Sometimes a sound can trigger a flurry of emotions. We were out paddling and all of a sudden we heard a blow, it’s a pretty distinct sound and immediately we start scanning the surface of the water for a whale. We see a set of tails pop out of the water! The sound of air being forced from the blowhole of a humpback is so exciting and becomes a race for who will spot eyes on it first. I told my paddle partner to keep us on track and I pulled out my camera to try to capture the moment.” -Annie Butler

We look forward to sharing more stories with you over the next few months, and then sharing our time with you in Summer 2022.

Brooke grew up spending her time on the lakes, rivers, and forests of Michigan. She graduated from Central Michigan University in 2015 with a degree in Outdoor Recreation and Environmental Science all while spending almost every weekend biking, rock climbing, skiing or ice climbing. She spends her summers guiding for Crystal Seas and TerraTrek in hopes of sharing her love of exploring the outdoors.

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