September 14, 2018

All the way into the Strait of Juan de Fuca!|9/14/18| 1:00PM

Guests aboard Kestrel along with Cpt. Mike and I were ready to get on the water to see what we could find out there today. So far there was a report of a humpback hanging out pretty far south from us, but still within our reach. With no other reports, we took right out of the harbor headed that direction but planning to scan the waters for other animals on the way. Headed south down San Juan Channel, Captain Mike received a report of transient orcas found in the strait of Juan de Fuca. This report was pretty far out West, well past Sooke of Vancouver Island. Knowing it would be a long trip down, we decided to go for it in hopes of sharing these orcas with our guests.  
Reports sent in had said these were the T18s, who have two very distinct males with massive dorsals. Being one of my favorite transient orca matriline, I could not wait to show them to our guests and see them myself! The trip down was calm but became more gray as we approached West. As soon as we entered the strait, it started raining and the weather became moody. With hopes of encountering these animals, none of us seemed to care. Admiring the coast line of Vancouver Island, we were distracted by the beauty and remoteness of the place. The water was calm and the wind non existent, thankfully for us since the rain was already cooling it down. Well past Race Rocks, we encountered black dorsal fins breaking through the water. First, a female, then a male! It was so easy to distinguish between the two sexes in this case! T19B was the male we spotted and his dorsal significantly leans left and is curved up top. I took this opportunity to explain how he was identifiable from the rest and talk a bit about Orca IDs. Still blows my mind that we can tell all these animals apart, how cool is nature! We remained parallel to these two whales hoping to see the other two, whom are also part of this group. The same two kept coming up for a couple of breaths and then back down again for a while. 
Far off in the distance near a cargo ship, we spotted the other two- a male and a female. Traveling at least a mile South from the rest of the pod. We spent a while staying with the same two whales up the strait and observing their behavior. It was hard to guess what they were doing, but they did seem to be traveling due to their synchronized breaths and straight course. I was a bit curious why the pod was so spread out though, so who knows they might have been foraging. Whatever they were up to, we were just happy to be there with them. The gray and calm seas were sliced by the elegant black dorsal fins to our starboard side as we heard their bullet sound exhalations every time they surfaced. 
With little time to head back home, we remained following them up the strait (luckily towards where we needed to go) to get as many last looks as possible. The rain continued to come down and we all geared up to head back into inland waters. The closer East, the more sunny it appeared. On the way into Cattle Pass, we spotted some harbor porpoises playing in the currents and a couple of birds trying to race our 35 knot-going boat! Arriving into Friday Harbor, the skies had cleared and the sun was ready to warm us up! 
Mariana, Naturalist, San Juan Safaris