April 8, 2018

J Pod in Haro Strait (April 3rd)

J Pod whales traveling together

[Naturalist Sarah – 04/03/2018 – M/V Sea Lion – 12:00pm]


April trips don’t often start with whale reports on the dock, but on Tuesday we had incredible reports of orcas be fore we left Friday Harbor. Captain Brian opted for a southerly route, so he steered the M/V Sea Lion right out of the harbor.

The original orcas that were reported on the west side of San Juan Island had been fairly non-directional… traveling north along the shoreline, and then south. With plenty of time to catch up with the killer whales, we decided to stop and check out some other wildlife as we cruised.  Near the south end of San Juan Island we found a raft of Steller’s sea lions taking deep breaths before going for a deeper dive. We admired the beautiful upwelling all around the boat as the sea lions surfaced giving us the side eye. We pressed south and west out into Haro Strait to continue on our search.

Wildlife reports always change, and on Tuesday they changed in a big way! All of J-pod was discovered traveling down the western side of Haro Strait! The early in the season we do not anticipate encountering any of our Southern Resident, salmon eating, killer whales with any sort of frequency, so to come across the whales twice in one week during April has been awesome. We were lucky enough to encounter several individuals, most notably J19 – Shachi traveling with her daughter J41 – Eclipse, and grandson J51 – Nova at the very front of the pod. Researchers and whale watchers alike have speculated that this female is taking over the J Pod matriarch position left vacant by the passing of J2 – Granny in the winter of 2016-2017. We observed as the J19 lead the family towards Discovery Island, before we left to check out some of the other groups traveling south. Perhaps one of our best looks of the day came from J26 – Mike, an adult male. Check out the pictures below!

Distant Breaching J-pod whale
J26 Mike