July 24, 2009

A Fairytale Ending...

Last night was incredible! Our guests did not realize how good they got it! We circumnavigated San Juan Island, leaving to the south and meeting up with the Killer Whales (Orcas) of J & K pods on the west side. The seas had calmed down...(earlier we had 2-3 footers & white caps)....but by the evening it was flat calm and you could see a thick fog bank looming in the Strait between Vancouver Island and the Olympic Peninsula. The Orcas were spread out and we got great views of a 1 or 2 here and there travelling south. We moved a half mile from Lime Kiln and shutdown to drop the hydrophone in. The underwater vocalizations and echolocation were incredible! We had no idea where the vocalizations were coming from...which direction or which whale, since there were none nearby. Sound does travel 4-5 times faster in water than air, so they could be a mile or more away! At one point, one of our younger guests aboard remarked "Are you sure that sound's not coming from their butt?! It sounds like a fart!" Haha! Did that get the crowd going....

Enthusiasm is contagious...we all couldn't help but smile and laugh when this same young guest first saw the Orcas and shouted "Wow! I didn't know wildlife could be so cool!"

We saw some great behaviors....logging (when an Orca just sits at the surface with its fin & head poking above the surface for minutes), flipper slaps, tail slaps, and some fishing in the rips where currents collide. Most of the whales seemed to have turned around and started to head north. So hopefully that means plenty of salmon for them and they're sticking around our waters for the next few days!

As we rounded the north end of the island you could see a few dark clouds hanging over the San Juans. The lighting this time of night in the summers is spectacular with the sun getting low in the sky. Then coming south through San Juan Channel you could see one end of a rainbow touching down on Orcas Island, the other on San Juan Island! Just as we docked, the entire rainbow filled in and we had a complete arch! I think our guests got the impression that it's always picture perfect like this out here. Not quite, but last night it was!

-Jaclyn, naturalist
Orca Whales and Wildlife Are Our Only Business. ©