Humpback Whales Seen Darting Between Boats on N. Oregon Coast
Published 08/25/2015 at 6:04 PM PDT = Updated 08/25/2015 at 6:54 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff
(Astoria, Oregon) – Boaters, residents and visitors to the north Oregon coast town of Astoria have gotten quite the thrill this last week with rather buzz-inducing sightings of Humpback whales. These are not only somewhat rare to see on the coast, but even rarer: they were spotted cavorting quite a ways up the Columbia River. (Photos courtesy Tiffany Boothe of Seaside Aquarium).
The sightings started around Tuesday, August 18, with Astoria resident Angie Wildt on a racing yacht reporting that she saw a black and white whale darting in and out of the water, rolling over a few times and then diving back under. She believed she'd seen Orcas.
“Basically I was on a boat that was racing and we were too busy to see where it went,” Wildt said. “On the way back, I scanned for spouting.”
More sightings happened over the next few days, and they were confirmed to be Humpbacks rather than Orcas. But it was Tiffany Boothe of Seaside Aquarium who really got the money shots on August 22 and 23.
“All week they have been very active,” Boothe said. “Surfacing between boats and following the bait fish around.”
Like many concentrations of creatures this time of year, they were gobbling up the bait fish, which are often in huge numbers about now. Boothe's photos show gobs of pelicans and other birds as well, a sure sign some great big food source is present.
“There have been two humpback whales spotted feeding on small bait fish in the Columbia River near Hammond,” Boothe said. “There were reports of humpbacks in the Columbia around Hammond this time last year.”
Humpback whales are part of the baleen whale suborder and are quite common in the Pacific ocean, as they are in most oceans around the world. They are known for breaching and their complex whale songs. They can live up to 50 years in the wild.
In 2011, a racing yacht off the north Oregon coast had a particularly spectacular but dangerous encounter with a humpback whale that was essentially a freak accident.
It was May 12 and the sailing vessel L'Orca had set out on a race from Astoria to Vancouver, B.C. About a half hour later, the ship was body slammed by a humpback that was about 30 feet long.
While random and startling, no one was hurt. There was some damage to the vessel and the whale left behind some chunks of its flesh on the ship.
Scientists believe it was a juvenile whale and that it was probably inexperienced, especially in the choppy conditions of that day. More of Boothe's photos below.
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