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Farallon Islands Whale Watch Sightings: May 28, 2016

By Chris Biertuempfel

A humpback whale in front of the San Francisco skyline. © Chris Biertuempfel

Saturday, May 28th, kicked off our 2016 Farallon Islands whale watching season—and we didn’t have to wait long to see our first whale. Within 5 minutes of leaving port, we came across two adult humpback whales feeding on anchovies near the Golden Gate Bridge. After a deep dive, they surfaced about 300 feet from the boat with one surfacing in front of the San Francisco skyline.

The humpbacks eventually followed the school of anchovies back out into the open ocean and we set off on our journey. The captain felt the waters were too choppy for a direct approach to the Farallon Islands so we traveled up the coastline towards Point Reyes. About 30 minutes into our trip, 200+ common dolphins surrounded our boat, leaping out of the water and riding our bow.

Common dolphins riding our bow wave. © Chris Biertuempfel

We continued our path north and came across more humpback whales by Double Point in Drake’s Bay. At one point four whales were visible from the deck and most of these sightings ended in a slow fluking up before deep dives.

The fluke of a humpback whale just before a dive. © Chris Biertuempfel

Birdwatchers had an eventful day highlighted by a rookery just offshore near Alamere Falls. Hundreds of seabirds lined the rocky outcroppings including Brown Pelicans, Brandt’s Cormorants, and Common Murres.

Hundreds of seabirds dot the rocky shoreline near Alamere Falls. © Chris Biertuempfel

We arrived back in port a little before 4:00pm and received a warm welcome from windsurfers and weekenders enjoying the sunshine on a glorious afternoon in the City by the Bay.

It was a beautiful afternoon in San Francisco. © Chris Biertuempfel

In total, we witnessed:

Marine Mammals

  • 11 humpback whales
  • 200 + long-beaked common dolphins
  • 10+ California sea lion & harbor seals


  • Brown Pelicans
  • Brandt’s Cormorants
  • Pelagic Cormorants
  • Double-crested Cormorants
  • Black Oystercatchers
  • California Gulls
  • Western Gulls
  • Common Murres
  • Pigeon Guillemots

Click here to see all the images from the trip.


Chris Biertuempfel manages Oceanic Society’s California-based programs, continuing the non-profit’s tradition of ocean faring expeditions that began in 1972. Also, he leads whale-centric expeditions in California and Mexico as a naturalist. His work as a photographer from such trips has been featured in several media outlets, including the San Francisco Chronicle and ABC News.


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