LOOK: Rare minke whale mother spotted with newborn near San Juan Island

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Newborn minke whale (left) with mother off Hein Bank, Washington. Photo taken Saturday, May 3rd by Island Adventures Naturalist and Captain Brooke McKinley.

FRIDAY HARBOR, Wash – Whale watchers near San Juan Island recently spotted something many have never seen in their lifetime, a mother minke whale and her newborn calf.

The whales were spotted Saturday at a feeding spot roughly five miles southwest of San Juan Island called Hein Bank.

Shane Aggergaard of Island Adventure Whale Watching spotted the pair.  He said he has worked in the local area for more than 30 years and have never seen anything like it.

“We do see minkes a lot, especially this time of year, and we’ve seen juveniles traveling with their mothers, but never a newborn,” said Aggregaard.

Brooke McKinley with Island Adventures was able to photograph the mother and baby and then share those pictures with researchers at The Center for Whale Research and Cascadia Research Collective.

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Newborn minke whale (left) with mother off Hein Bank, Washington. Photo taken Saturday, May 3rd by Island Adventures Naturalist and Captain Brooke McKinley.

The Center for Whale Research tracks whales, including minke (pronounced mink-ee) whales and researchers there say they hope this is a sign that the population may be growing.

“It’s probably our most mysterious whale, and now we’ve just been given a rare glimpse of a newborn,” said Michael Harris, Executive Director of Pacific Whale Watch Association.  “The scientists we gave these photos to are kids in a candy store.  This is a very special occurrence, and having these amazing images to review may provide a lot of clues to researchers.”

The minke spends very little time at the surface making it hard to spot.  It can swim at speeds up to 25 mph making it one of the fasted whales in the ocean.  Adults can reach a maximum length of 33 feet long and weigh roughly 10 tons.  They are most often solitary animals.  They feed in the Salish Sea on krill and small schooling herring.

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Newborn minke whale (left) with mother off Hein Bank, Washington. Photo taken Saturday, May 3rd by Island Adventures Naturalist and Captain Brooke McKinley.

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