All sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat
At 3:20 PM I spotted a humpback whale fluking between the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz. More spouts were sighted beyond the bridge, so we slowly headed out. We stopped just past the bridge. I counted five humpback whales within 300 yards of us, with several more spouting further out in the strait. We floated in neutral in that spot for the remainder of the trip.
Of the ones near us, one pair appeared to be a mother and calf. They spouted and fluked together, and often floated near the surface for several minutes at a time. I observed that the mother's dorsal fin looked wounded and seemed to have a chunk hanging from it; hopefully we have some pictures to confirm. At one point the mother and calf headed straight for our port bow, coming within 10 yards. They gave us a face full of whale breath, which smells a lot like stale anchovies. They dove under our boat and popped up again about 50 yards away off our starboard bow.
Between our position and Mile Rock, I spotted one whale slapping its tail and many more fluking and spouting. I estimate that there were at least ten whales in the strait at that time. Several large container ships passed us; once a particularly large one came through the area, we saw significantly less activity near our boat. We also had some harbor seal, California sea lion, and harbor porpoise activity near our vessel.
The sighting was reported to NOAA using Whale Alert, and the Coast Guard was notified via radio.
Jennifer Hendershott, the company photographer for SFWT, was on board for this trip. She took the above photos. If you want to see more of her photos, you can check out the SFWT Facebook page.
The wind died down for some beautiful sea conditions on our evening trip. We returned to the same spot, finding the whales at around 6:20 PM. There were still a large number of active whales in the area, and we approached very slowly to minimize disturbance.
I spotted the mother and calf had now been joined by another adult. The three of them spouted and fluked in synchrony, the calf usually on the outside and the mother in the middle. We had more spouts and flukes all around the boat, and saw an immense amount of bird activity as they attempted to take advantage of the fish pushed to the surface by the whales. Again, more spouts were seen further out in the strait, but this time we had six or seven whales within 300 yards of the boat, indicating that more might have been on their way in. We also sighted harbor porpoises and harbor seals.
***If you were on one of these trips and have photos, send them in to firstname.lastname@example.org! I'd love to add them to this post for others to enjoy (with credit to you). Thank you!***