A lone gray whale in Tramp Harbor caught the attention of many islanders last week who reported sightings over the course of several days.
Seventeen-year-old islander Corinne Ryan was out at sunrise with her mother Joanne last Thursday when the pair saw the tail of the whale standing out of the water and snapped a photo.
“In the 16 years we’ve lived here, we’ve never seen one. It’s the first time, it’s so cool,” she said, adding that the whale made its presence known for several days. Ryan said she and her mother assumed that it had left by the time they caught a glimpse Thursday morning.
Islander Rob Blauvelt, who lives in the vicinity of the harbor, said he and his family first became aware of the whale last Thursday night. He said that it’s not uncommon to hear seals or porpoises out on the water, but this encounter was different than those.
“This was big, and I watched it and it came back up; it was amazing,” he said.
Watching from shore as the whale made its way up to the surface, Blauvelt said he was astounded. He noted that he was concerned that the whale’s visit to the island was perhaps an act of desperation out of a lack of food elsewhere, and feared it may wash up on the island shore in time. But the whale seemed to have made its way out of the harbor safely.
“Hopefully it got the nourishment it needed and was able to continue on with its journey,” he said.
The Seattle Times recently noted that some gray whales in Puget Sound, beginning long migrations from Arctic feeding grounds to calving areas in Mexico, stick around the area from March until May, feeding on ghost shrimp in the mud in the intertidal zone along the shore. Scientists believe it’s part of a strategy to avoid difficulties in feeding during migration years.
Whether or not the whale will return, Blauvelt said that to hear it breathing out in the harbor was special.
“We just felt really lucky; it is just something [when] you can take a deep breath and meditate and say, ‘thanks.’ Just say, ‘thanks for letting us be a part of that,’” he said.