pier 39

Sightings: 9/8/19

Sighting from Tamalpais Charters vessel The Tamalpais for the Marine Mammal Center


On this special trip for the Marine Mammal Center, we headed west towards the Golden Gate Bridge. We spotted a few harbor porpoises near Cavallo Spire and some harbor seals close to the south tower of the Golden Gate Bridge.


As we headed out through the strait, we noticed lots of bird activity. There were a variety of types of birds present, including elegant terns, parasitic jaegers, brown pelicans, common murres, and Brandt’s cormorants.

Right around the demarcation line we spotted the first spout. It was a humpback whale. One of the first behaviors we saw was a body roll, where we got a good look at the pectoral fin of the humpback.

The whale was surfacing every few minutes and arching its back to dive, but we weren’t seeing any flukes from the animal at first.

The whale was definitely feeding. Birds hovered all around the spots where it surfaced, attempting to get the leftover anchovies.


The animal slowly moved west past the demarcation line. As we followed, we spotted a second spout.

We saw a shallow fluke dive from this animal which will hopefully help us identify the individual.

The wind was increasing and the tide was beginning to ebb, so we eventually started heading back in to the bay. On our way back to Tiburon, we stopped by Pier 39 to look at the sea lions.

There were also lots of birds in the area.

We also took a look at some of the whale bones on Angel Island, where the Marine Mammal Center performs their necropsies.

Sightings Report: March 23, 2019

Sighting from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

On this tour we had barely left the dock when we heard reports of gray whales near our harbor. We ended up spotting one just east of Pier 39 in the ferry lane.


The whale gave us a few spouts and fluke dives.

One of the dives was within 50 yards of our boat .

We decided to continue west, but saw another gray whale when we came to the west side of Alcatraz. This whale moved east towards where the first animal had been. This one kept its distance from us, but we saw several spouts and the whale’s back.


We continued onward towards St. Francis Yacht Club. There was a sailboat race happening. Near Crissy Field, we found another gray whale. We saw this one surface several times before we left it to cross underneath the Golden Gate Bridge and head back to port.


Sightings Report: July 22, 2017

All sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat


My first tour of the day started off with lots of excitement - we had barely pulled away from the dock when the captain shouted "whale!" There was actually a humpback whale almost at our dock. It headed back out into the bay, met two other whales between Pier 39 and Alcatraz and started to head west. We followed the flukes and spouts slowly at a safe distance, reporting our sighting and warning other nearby boats of the presence of the whales. There were lots of feeding sea lions near the pier, and many western gulls trying to take advantage of their catch. 

A sea lion and gull face off! Photo by SFWT photographer Jennifer Hendershott.

A sea lion and gull face off! Photo by SFWT photographer Jennifer Hendershott.

It had been foggy when we started our trip, but it started to clear up and the wind died down around 4:30pm. While we were floating just outside the Golden Gate Bridge, first mate Josh noticed a lone windsurfer outside the bridge struggling against a dying wind. We offered him a lift back to Pier 39 and he gladly accepted. We retrieved both him and his equipment from the water and headed back to the pier. We saw a lot of harbor porpoise activity on our way back to the dock. 


By the time we were back out, the weather was beautiful and we were able to zip out to Mile Rock by Land's End. There we found 6-8 humpbacks fluking and spouting. Two or three different whales came over to check out the Kitty Kat as we floated in neutral, and we saw a few flukes closer than 100 yards. 

Beautiful weather beyond the bridge, with Mile Rock in the distance. Photo by me. 

Beautiful weather beyond the bridge, with Mile Rock in the distance. Photo by me. 

We also spotted harbor porpoises and harbor seals, and I noticed some Common Murre parents with anchovies in their mouths headed for their squealing chicks.

All photos in this post by SFWT photographer Jennifer Hendershott unless stated otherwise.

***If you were on one of these trips and have photos, send them in to info.whalegirl@gmail.com! I'd love to add them to this post for others to enjoy (with credit to you). Thank you!***