in 2015, Puget Sound Express was the first whale watching company in the Pacific Northwest to sight a rare fin whale in the Salish Sea. Luck was on our side again last week when we once again made initial contact with a second, larger fin whale (the first of 2016)!
The fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus) is a marine mammal belonging to the suborder of baleen whales. It is the second-largest animal after the blue whale, reaching nearly 100 feet in length. American naturalist Roy Chapman Andrews called the fin whale “the greyhound of the sea… for its beautiful, slender body is built like a racing yacht and the animal can surpass the speed of the fastest ocean steamship.”
The fin whale’s body is long and slender, colored brownish-grey with a paler underside. At least two recognized subspecies exist, in the North Atlantic and the Southern Hemisphere. It is found in all the major oceans, from polar to tropical waters. It is absent only from waters close to the ice pack at the poles and relatively small areas of water away from the open ocean. The highest population density occurs in temperate and cool waters. Its food consists of small schooling fish, squid, and crustaceans.
Like all other large whales, the fin whale was heavily hunted during the 20th century and is an endangered species.
It is a real thrill to encounter this whale two years running.
(Top photo by customer Rob Allen)