April 18, 2010

Finally! A sunny day in the San Juan Islands. Although we're situated in the rainy pacific northwest, the San Juan islands see more sun than Seattle, Washington or even Portland, Oregon. Which is counter intuitive, because in the Pacific Northwest, the further north you get, the more rain you stand to have fall on your head. Texas actually has more annual rainfall than Washington, but it comes in torrential downpours accompanied by amazing displays of thunder and lightning, like the Gods ARE fighting on Mt. Olympus. But here in the Pacific Northwest, its more as if an angel were crying; we receive a little rain each day, a slight suppressing drizzle that keeps the sky covered in a nimbostratus cloud.

The Olympic Peninsula, to our south features the temperate rain forest whereas, just 30 miles to the north, San Juan Island features cactus. The question is, how can you get such an ecological shift in such a short distance?? San Juan Island is surrounded by a protective ring of mountains, the Olympics to our south, the Cascades to our east and the Coast mountains to our north and west. The clouds occasionally get caught on the tops of these mountains, leaving us in a ring of sunlight. And that's the rain shadow. There's is nothing on this planet like being on the sea in the sun, where water reflects light like a mirror. Even the dorsal fins of the Orcas reflect the light. Today we saw 8 Transients, heading south, including a calf.

Orcas gestate for 16-17 months and nurse for about 2 years. A female only gives birth once every 3-5 years. The calves are born tail first to enable their survival, that way they don't drown during the birthing process. Like most mammals, including humans, the calves are excitable and curious. Often when a calf first learns to breach, it will breach over and over again as if to say to the world, 'This feels good!' We once had an Orca breach a few feet away from our boat, which is surprising considering their amazing powers of echolocation. They have an incredibly accurate sense of their surroundings.

Orca Whales and Wildlife Are Our Only Business. ©