August 5, 2009

Black-and-Whites of a Different Color

Not all black and white creatures are created the same, as well we know. No one would mistake a zebra for an orca. But someone might mistake a Dall's porpoise for an orca. Especially if the orca is expected and the Dall's porpoise is not.

That was not exactly what happened tonight, but it was a surprise none the less. Capt. Denny and I knew we would probably not see orcas, unless we were to happen upon some transients. The last thing we anticipated though, was to see Dall's porpoises in San Juan Channel near Cattle Pass. What a shock to see black-and-whites that were not orcas. Especially since the Dall's have been mysteriously missing this season. There have been very few sightings, least of all in Cattle Pass.

Well, we quick turned around and cruised in circles until the porpoises hooked on to the boat. They rode the bow and splashed through the wake. Famous for the rooster tails that they spray from their dorsal fins when swimming at high speed, they left trails as they careened around the MV Kittiwake. When we shut down our motor and just drifted with the current, the porpoises continued to circle and dive under the boat. They slowly calmed down, until we could follow their bold black and white markings under the water and see where they were going to come up for a breath each time. They surfaced time and again next to the boat and at the stern and we could hear them blow each time. The experience was beautiful and moving and was definitely one of the highlights of the season.

Of course, the other wildlife not wanting to be outdone, a bald eagle dropped into the water near our boat and grabbed a large fish, which he then devoured on the rocks in front of us. The evening just hummed with wild lives and we were allowed to share in it. So, from all of us at San Juan Safaris to all of you memory makers out there, thank you and we will...

See You In The Islands!
~Tristen, Naturalist

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