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Three Bizarre Oregon Coast Encounters: Sea Lion, Squid, Slamming Whale

Published 05/14/2015 at 3:30 PM PDT - Last Updated 05/15/2015 at 5:21 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

(Oregon Coast) – History is probably full of stranger encounters, but few are so close to home. And when you're a publication that covers nature and science on the Oregon coast, you're bound to pile up some odd tales in your archives. (Squid photo above courtesy Whale's Tail Whale Watching).

Take these three moments from recent years, for example. Animals do the darnedest things, even watery ones. Like the time a whale landed on top of a boat, a sea lion scared people on a dark beach, or a large squid appeared to follow a boat around.

On May 12, 2011, the crew of the sailing ship L'Orca began a race to Vancouver, B.C. about 9 a.m., starting out from Astoria. A half hour later, just over the border of the Washington coast, a 30-foot Humpback whale abruptly appeared out of nowhere. Literally, in midair.

The whale breached right next to the boat and not only went into the air over the vessel but part of the whale actually slammed the boat. Startling, to say the least. No one was hurt and no massive damage occurred – but enough to halt the race for the L'Orca, It certainly frightened the crew, and the whale lost some flesh on the boat.

Why would a whale do this?

It's not like the cetacean had it in for the vessel. Carrie Newell, a whale expert and owner of the charter cruise Whale Research EcoExcursions – out of Depoe Bay – said her guess was that the whale was a juvenile and didn’t know any better.

"I would assume that because it's a juvenile it doesn’t know as much, and it got a little close, and because it didn’t know a lot it jumped on the boat,” Newell said.

Another expert from the Hatfield Marine Science Center said choppy seas were likely a factor, which would've made a lot of noise for the creature's built-in sonar guidance. So it was a tad confused as well.

One story in 2013 had Oregon Coast Beach Connection readers going bonkers. A tiny whale watching boat out of Depoe Bay had a bizarre close encounter with a Humboldt Squid. Owners of Whales Tail Whale Watching and its guests aboard were stunned to see a really large squid not only near the surface, but it appeared to follow the boat around.

At about six feet long, this was no Jules Verne monster. But it made quite an impression, largely because – in the first place – it's extremely rare to encounter them in the wild at all. Then, when captain and owner Gary Stephenson got nearer, the creature turned towards to the boat.

“We were coming in towards Boiler Bay when I saw this orange thing, and this Humboldt Squid started coming towards the boat, coming towards us,” Stephenson said. “I've never seen that before.”

Stephenson kept moving the boat out of the creature's way, but it kept heading the same direction, as if fascinated not just by the boat but also by its engines.

In March of 2012, Oregon Coast Beach Connection editor Andre' Hagestedt had a wild and startling encounter of his own. This involved a snarling creature in the dark, lurking in a pitch black corner of a seawall at Lincoln City's D River access.

“It was late at night, about 11 p.m., and I was doing one last little bit of night photography,” Hagestedt said. “A couple of girls parked, got down on the beach and started walking around. All of a sudden I heard some bizarre, guttural noise and the girls screamed and ran off.”

Taking a cheap snapshot digital camera, he fired off a few shots downward in that direction using a flash. Sure enough, he caught a slightly aerial view of a rather annoyed sea lion. It was a full grown adult, so definitely a large and foreboding creature. Not something you want to mess with.

The girls were startled but began laughing fairly quickly. A few minutes later, they told Hagestedt they didn't see it there and it barked at them.

When writing this story at the time, Oregon Coast Beach Connection learned Lincoln City had a kind of sea lion mascot a few decades back – a beast that locals had named Joe the Sea Lion. It had wandered onshore and apparently had become docile and used to humans, quickly considered a part of the local community of Taft.

See the latest close encounters with Orcas and their babies. More of these photos below:


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