Naturalist Stephanie Raymond was speaking to 200 whale watchers aboard the San Juan Clipper near Whidbey Island in Washington when a speeding boat passed by and then hit a gray whale, lifting the boat out of the water.
"We were watching the whales, and then this guy comes blowing through really fast," Lisa Shannon told Seattle's KING 5. "We were all commenting, 'What's that guy doing?'"
KING 5 reporter Alison Morrow showed video of the collision in her report:
"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."
The gray whale was traveling with two other whales when the incident occurred Sunday Morning. The boat momentarily went airborne, after which its driver stopped for a few seconds before motoring off.
Crew of the San Juan Clipper took photos of the offending vessel and sent them and the video to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. The boater was tracked down and was cooperating with the investigation. He gave a statement, though what he said was not released.
“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 told KING 5. “If there are whale-watching boats, you need to slow or stay out of the area.”
It was speculated that the whale that was struck was one known as Patch. The three whales travelling together were identified as 49 (Patch), 22 and 383; they are among 10 or 11 gray whales that visit Puget Sound nearly every year.
It was not known whether the whale suffered any injuries from the collision.