June 23, 2018

Big Orca Bull

Captain Pete, naturalist Alexandria and I were ready for our day trip on a beautiful and sunny Tuesday. With almost a full boat, the guests and us were ready to see some whales! Captain Gabe had reports of Transient Orcas up near the Gulf Islands in Canada and headed towards us. This group had apparently cruised by Friday Harbor and up the San Juan Channel earlier that morning. It would take us about an hour to get up there, so we headed up the channel with no time to lose. How much ground orcas can cover in such little time is astonishing to me. The trip up was pleasant, and it is always nice familiarizing myself with all the water ways and islands up North as well as to share the knowledge I’ve learned living on the San Juan Islands with the guests. It was as calm as could be on the water as we headed towards Pender Island always scanning for those dorsal fins and whatever other life we could spot. As we approached Boundary Pass, you could see the Canadian mainland and mountain range very clearly, we turned west towards South Pender Island and could see some boats in the distance. After a couple of minutes, we saw a big dorsal fin break through the water! It was a killer whale male; from the look of his dorsal fin. This guy was huge and wide even from afar! We stayed with him for quite a while as he seemed to be foraging along the shore and taking deep dives. After a while, we became confused and curious about where the rest of his family could be. A couple of hundred yards, way up the coast three smaller dorsal fins appeared in the distance. We left the big male alone and decided to go look at the rest of his family. The 3 other orcas were his mom and his 2 younger and much smaller siblings. We observed them changing directions over and over and eventually turning south bound keeping that same distance away from the big male as he followed their same pattern. You could tell that regardless of how far away they seem to be from one another, they were still communicating underwater. When we decided to peel off we went and found some harbor seals and bald eagles off Spieden Island. What a fun filled day!

Mariana, Naturalist, San Juan Safaris