June 7, 2013

Hardcore Whale Watching

Our guests braved high seas today as we crossed the exposed Eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca in search of the not-so-elusive killer whale. Lately the endangered southern resident population of killer whales have been following their relatively predictable summer activity of salmon fishing on the west side of the San Juan Islands.

We first encountered these whales south of Victoria. Despite the high wind and confused sea state, J and L pod were grouped tightly and displaying resting behavior as they made easterly progress. As the tide came in, the orcas rode the strong currents at a brisk speed of seven knots. Our guests were astounded to watch a large family cruise right past the bow of our boat. We paralleled their path of travel all the way back to the west side of San Juan Island where they became more active, probably turning their attention to their prey.

Learning of another group of killer whales moving our direction from the north, Captain Mike steered us into the relatively calm waters north of Lime Kiln Lighthouse. There we encountered several animals that appeared to be on a tight schedule. They moved so quickly that they porpoised out of the water with impressive grace and power, against the flooding current. Perhaps they were on course to rendezvous with the larger population we had just viewed to the south.

Andrew, Naturalist (M/V Sea Lion), San Juan Safaris