July 25, 2020

L Pod Southern Resident Killer Whales Forage off San Juan Island

SRKW Swim West Side of San Juan Island

Olivia | M/V Sea Lion | July 25th, 2020 | 13:30

Starting off the trip, Captain Pete said to me, “Olivia, today is starting off a little weird, but sometimes those turn out to be the best days.” If he ever decides to retire as a Captain, he has a great future in fortune telling since he nailed our day on the head! A Bald Eagle soared through the sky as we left Friday Harbor and started our travels southwest. We had Mount Baker perfectly standing on the horizon, Mount Rainier glancing up from the South, and the Olympic Mountain Range backdropping our entire trip. Did I mention perfectly calm seas? 


It was near Hein Bank that we saw part of L Pod of the Southern Resident Killer Whales. This was amazing news! We saw as they greeted our waters the night before with K Pod but heard they had already started heading offshore and into Canada earlier that morning. Assuming we would not see them with their brief scarce visits to our waters, finding them was already the most spectacular part of the day.


We watched as they foraged widely spread out along the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Even though this type of viewing keeps us on our toes seeing those tall dorsal fins off in the distance and unknowing where they will pop up, this is exactly what we hope to see- finding food! It was all we could hope for in regard to this ecotype who is critically endangered due to that lack of Chinook Salmon. 


After slowly drifting back north, allowing them all the space in the world to forage, we decided to take one more stop at Whale Rocks. So grateful we did because we saw Steller’s Sea Lions! It is not common to see them this time of year since they are usually up in Alaska where they migrate during the summer months to breed with those females. We saw about three of them hauled out, bellowing, and soaking in the sun. As we rounded the boat to the western side of the island, we were able to see heaps of Harbor Seals hauled out in banana pose, just above the shoreline.


It was yet again an emotional but spectacular trip to see some of our Southern Resident Killer Whales return to these waters to forage, if only for a night. They will forever be our most loved species that graces these waters.