Sleeping Whales

We spend a lot time underway watching out for and avoiding logs. Especially during this last week as we have been making long runs and the tides are high, sweeping driftwood and logs off the beaches and back into the waterways. But those are not the only things that can be lurking under the water.

I am used to looking for blows from whales and seeing them in the distance is always a happy occasion. But after an up close and personal experience the other day, I really don’t want to see them up close!

My preferred viewing of whales – I need to use my maximum telephoto lens and crop the photo to get a good one!

I was piloting while Larry and Miranda were down in the salon reading and hanging out. The sun was slanted across the water from my left, making it a bit difficult to tell exactly what was coming up in the water. There were spurts of many logs at times, and other times seaweed – which I feel silly avoiding but do it a lot out of concern for a lurking log. I had relaxed as we had entered a log free zone for a while, and was sitting back in the helm chair rather than perched on the edge of my seat or standing up. I saw a slight difference in the wave ripples ahead but nothing breaking the surface. I wondered what it was and decided to turn slightly to port to avoid it “just in case”, but I really didn’t think it was anything significant.

As I started the slight leftward turn, a whale dorsal fin appeared in front of me, just off our bow pulpit. A large humpback headed for our starboard side. I freaked out and yelled, pulled back on the throttle and then put it in neutral. The whale turned tail up and dove just off our starboard bow. There was no contact, and he must have taken a big breath in without breathing out, because there never was any blow that I saw.

We sat in neutral for a while as I regained my composure. I was so very glad not to have hit the whale. After that I have been hyperalert for sleeping whales. We saw one two days ago in Queen Charlotte Sound, but this one was sitting on the surface with a visible dorsal fin. It clearly was asleeep – not moving, not blowing. We had good clearance from it on our port side.

I did a little research and found this article on how whales sleep from Scientific American. Apparently they sleep with half their brains and alternate eye at a time. This must be how the whale I encountered woke up enough to avoid us as much as I avoided him. I can see how they don’t have time to avoid boats traveling at high rates of speed. The speed restrictions that were in place in Glacier Bay in the whale feeding zones make complete sense to me.

Breaching whales in the distance from the bubble feeding pod we were observing. This is a very cropped photo – I honestly was so focused on what was happening closer to me I didn’t notice the breaching whales as first.

2 thoughts on “Sleeping Whales”

  1. Wow! What an exciting and scary encounter. Glad that everything worked out OK. I think long-distance viewing is definitely the way to go for whales. 🙂

    Like

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