Passengers and crew onboard the Puget Sound Express whale watching vessel MV Glacier Spirit witnessed a rare whale sighting on Monday, September 9, 2019 in the Salish Sea, with the appearance of the second largest whale species on earth – the fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus).
The encounter occurred southwest of Dungeness Spit near Sequim, WA. The sighting of the fin whale was the first in several years. In September of 2015, Puget Sound Express was the first whale watching company in the Pacific Northwest to encounter a fin whale in the Salish Sea. A second sighting was made in July 2016. However, no subsequent sightings have been noted until this encounter.
The fin whale is the second-largest whale species on Earth, behind the blue whale. Adult fins can reach 85 feet and 75 tons and live up to 90 years. Listed as an Endangered Species in the U.S., they once were common in the Salish Sea until targeted and intensive commercial hunting off Vancouver Island nearly wiped out the local population.
The 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.”
PSE Naturalist Wendi Robinson, and PSE Captain Christopher Lewman captured video of the whale surfacing, and Robinson also captured some still images of the whale, which appears to have significant scarring.