On Nov. 30, 2023, a young humpback whale, approximately two years old and now identified with the number CRC-20899, was seen breaching near Seattle's iconic Space Needle. This event, captured in photographs by Jeff Hogan of the Soundwatch Boater Education Program, provided not only once-in-a-lifetime images but also a unique opportunity to observe wildlife in proximity to a major urban area.
Here in Oregon, humpback whales can sometimes be spotted off our coastal shores as well. Get all the details in our ultimate guide to Whale Watching on the Oregon Coast.
As reported by The Associated Press and other WA media outlets, these images were crucial for assessing the whale's health and assigning it a unique identification number, a standard practice in marine research. Hogan, who is also the co-coordinator for the Seattle branch of Soundwatch, closely monitored the whale during its stay in the bay, helping to guide other vessels around it. Observing the whale's nearly 30 breaches, Hogan confirmed its healthy condition.
Soundwatch, active for over three decades in the San Juan Islands, primarily focusing on orca populations, has recently expanded to Seattle, specifically to safeguard whales in the bustling Elliott Bay. The program educates vessel operators to maintain a safe distance from these majestic marine animals, which share the waters with various boats and ships.
Alanna Frayne, another Soundwatch coordinator, highlighted the educational and collaborative benefits of such sightings. The whale, believed to be the offspring of a known female humpback named “Smiley” (BCY0995), brought together different marine operators for a shared cause.
The increase in humpback and other whale sightings near Seattle is a positive sign of the species' recovery, following the historical impacts of commercial whaling. These waters, particularly the Puget Sound, are considered to have been a nursery area for humpbacks in the past. The young whale was observed in the area until it headed northwards, with Soundwatch boats ensuring its safe departure from the city's vicinity.