An incredible encounter between a northwest boater and a humpback whale in the Strait of Juan de Fuca is getting thousands of views on social media.
The boater, who asked to not be named, shared her video with KIRO 7 News after a whale swam under her boat on Tuesday.
"We were sitting idle, engines off, watching a pod of orcas in the distance when this humpback came right to us and stayed 35 minutes!"
Washington state law requires "vessels" and "other objects" to stay at least 200 yards away from whales, but in this case the whale swam up to the boat.
The whale-watching industry knows this kind of experience as “mugging.” According to the Pacific Whale Foundation, “whale mugging” is the term used when a whale swims up to a boat, and the captain can’t move the vessel until the whale has departed.
This type of interaction typically lasts 15 minutes to two hours. During a mugging, all passengers in the boat can do is shut down the engine and wait for the whale to move along in the waters.
In this boaters’ case, she took video of the whale’s long, ragged pectoral fin waving hello.
Watch the video below, and keep scrolling to read about the so-called "humpback comeback."
Humpback whale sightings used to be rare because their population was once threatened by commercial boating. But the increase in humpback whale sightings may be due to a shift in habitat, according to Cascadia Research Collective.
Some call it the “humpback comeback” – with groups as large as 15 or 20 in northwest waters.
During this comeback last year, some clashing between orcas and humpbacks were reported. In one sighting, two humpback whales breached waters in defense of their young as transient orcas charged against them.
Whales have impressive memories and can retain knowledge of locations where they have been harassed, but whale researchers do not believe that orca attacks on humpbacks' young will deter them from the Salish Sea.
The humpback whales migrate north toward Alaska from Hawaii, Mexico, and Central America during the spring. Their stay in north Puget Sound has been unusually long this year, making their presence known to human visitors.
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