November 18, 2018

A Dreamy Day with J Pod Southwest of San Juan Island | 11/18/2018 | M/V Sea Lion | 12:00pm

J Pod

[Sarah | 11/18/2018 | M/V Sea Lion | 12:00pm]

 On Sunday the M/V Sea Lion had one of those perfect fall trips that will sustain this whale nerd throughout the rest of the cold, rainy, dark, and long winter ahead! We set out from Friday Harbor with blue skies up above and the potential glimmer of a rumor of some killer whales in the area. In November, sometimes you have to trust your gut and follow up on rumors. We decided to head south to see what we could find.

Pointing towards the entrance to Puget Sound, Admiralty Inlet, Captain Brian and I were scanning the horizon with binoculars looking for the telltale exhales and dorsal fins over the surface. A few miles out we spotted our first fins! We had put in the work and found all of J-Pod as they exited Puget Sound after an extended fall visit into the southern reaches of the Salish Sea following the autumn runs of salmon. J-Pod is one of three pods that make up our endangered Southern Resident killer whale population. J pod is currently made up of twenty-three individuals plus one individual from L-Pod, L87 “Onyx” who travels with the pod.

We had an unbelievable encounter with the whales highlighted by a pass by two whales in particular, J46 “Star” and J35 “Talequah.” These two whales have experiences significant loss within the last few years, J46 losing both her mother J28 “Polaris” and her baby brother J54 “Dipper,” and J35 famously, and very publically, losing a female calf this past summer, who’s body she subsequently carried for 17 days. The Southern Residents are exclusively salmon eaters, relying heavily on the depleted population of Chinook salmon. With les and less food in the water, we are seeing higher death rates and fewer births in this population resulting in a precipitous decline. Stories of families like J46’s or mothers like J35 are becoming more and more common in this shrinking population. It is so important to share these stories and to be the voices for these whales.