A Minke Whale Returns to Upper Lynn Canal

By , April 12, 2011

Yesterday morning, Aly commented that she saw a porpoise out in Lynn Canal. A while later I glanced up and saw the same thing, but recognized right away that something was different. An animal with a sickle shaped dorsal fin surfaced momentarily, but the exposed body was far too long for our little harbor porpoises. I grabbed a pair of binoculars and went out to investigate. I patiently waited, watching the patch of water where I’d last seen it. Eventually, the animal reappeared. There can be little doubt: it’s a minke whale.

Minkes are fairly rare around here, and very hard to see. They’re a small baleen whale, about the size of an adult killer whale. They don’t create much of a vapor plume when they blow, and they generally don’t arch their backs or show their tails when they dive.

People reported seeing a minke in our area in the summers a few years ago. We saw it in our waters two years in a row. In 2009 we sited it often, especially during the herring run, sometimes close enough to observe it rather well. Last year we didn’t see one at all.

Now, it, or another of its kind has returned. This is exciting. I hesitate to give the impression that our more common whales are in any way unexciting—that’s not true at all—but the presence of a rare whale makes wildlife viewing even more interesting.

When Aly saw it, the minke was traveling north. The first time I saw it, it was headed south, but a short time later, I saw it turn north again. This is very similar to what the killer whales did yesterday, which seems a bit odd. Humpback whales will wander around the area, but the killer whales generally pass on their way up the fjord, then, if we’re lucky, we’ll see them when they return south. For any whales other than humpbacks to mill around off our shore seems, to our observation, unusual. It makes me think the herring are beginning to arrive.

Just in time for that, the premiere issue of New Homesteading Magazine is out. They asked for permission to print an expanded version of my blog post from last year at this time, Coffee With a Whale. It looks like they have some useful articles as well, including one on off-the-grid home schooling. You can get a copy through their Website [no longer live]. Check it out!

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