Passengers on a whale watching tour in Washington’s Puget Sound looked on in horror Sunday as a fast-moving boat struck a submerged whale.
Amateur video taken by a passenger aboard the San Juan Clipper shows the moment the powerboat strikes a large whale just below the surface – hitting it with enough force to knock the boat out of the water.
“It looked like [the boat] was headed straight for the whale, and he was, and he hit it, and we were just shocked,” Lisa Shannon, a passenger aboard the San Juan Clipper, told King-5 News in Seattle.
“He hit the whale at full speed. It seemed like he sped up to get through the boats like they were in his way.”
It is believed the whale struck was a grey whale, a species common to the Puget Sound region. About a dozen of the whales frequent the Pugent Sound area each year.
On average, grey whales grow to be 13-15 metres long, with an average weight of between 15 and 30 metric tonnes.
The condition of the whale that was struck is not known; video of the incident shows the whale remaining motionless for a few moments after the accident before moving off.
Naturalist Stephanie Raymond was speaking to the passengers aboard the whale watching craft when the crash occurred.
“My response was, ‘Did I just see that happen?’” Raymond told King-5. “I’ve never seen this happen before. I’ve never seen a boat strike a whale.”
Video and photos of the incident were sent to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, which confirmed an investigation into the incident is underway.
Until then, experts are hoping the video serves as a reminder for boaters to remain cautious around whale watching craft, or in waters frequented by whales.
“These guys are big and slower, and they’re used to boats but when someone comes in at a speed like that, and they’re big, 40-foot animals, it’s hard for them to get out of the way,” San Juan Clipper Captain Jason Mihok said.
“If there are whale watching boats, you need to slow or stay out of the area.”