September 9, 2015

Dark Fins

I know fall hasn't officially started yet, but with a foggy morning and a cool sunny afternoon it's sure starting to feel like it. Capt. Mike, Naturalist Mike, and I headed out with calm seas and reports of whales. We headed north towards the outer islands in the direction of Spieden and Johns. Right around Spieden we started to see some very tall blows on the sunny horizon. The sun on the cold water created an optical illusion called the Fata Morgana which made it hard to make out exactly what was in the distance. Once we got close enough, it became clear that we were looking at a big Humpback Whale! We stood amazed at this 35 feet long animal that went up and down feeding showing us his fluke often. With humpback whales you can identify individuals based on the pattern present on the bottom of their flukes. This unique pattern of dark and white markings along with any scars or notches is kind of like a fingerprint and each fluke is a little bit different. This big guy was something special because he had a fluke that was almost all dark, perhaps no white. After being amazed by this placid animal, we motored on through Johns Pass, a beautiful yet skinny pass between Johns and Stuart island towards Turn Point - the end of the US. Soon after hitting the watery border between US and Canada. There were more dark fins in the distance... orcas! It was a single family of K pod, the K-12s, with all their members swimming steadily towards East Point on Saturna Island. The K-12s is headed by K-12 herself, Sequim, and she has three children: Sekiu (K-22), Rainshadow (K-37), and Saturna (K-43), and Sekiu had one child K-43 (Tika). This family is great and Rainshadow and Saturna are nothing but trouble. It was pretty cool seeing Saturna swim right in front of her island namesake for awhile and even more interesting to see how much she and her older nephew, Tika, have grown. Since Tika is a male his dorsal fin is going to be very tall and straight and it's getting there, he's not even full grown and you can easily pick him out in a crowd. After watching this family scoot through a few hug freighter wakes, which they did with ease, we headed back south, but the fun was not over. We stopped again to look and some humpbacks and even saw an Elephant Seal sleeping in the water! These guys are huge and have hilarious trunks for noses, hence the name. They can weigh up to 8,800 lbs and we often don't see a lot of them here, but what a cool moment!


Whale folks until next time,


Naturalist Erick,

M/V Sea Lion, San Juan Safaris