May 30, 2010

Is This Neverland?

It must be since Capt. Hook just arrived!  That is right, we spent the day with good old Capt. Hook and, in this story, his jolly gals.  And we did not have to go more than twenty minutes down San Juan Channel before we met up with them.  Transient orcas T40, or Capt. Hook as he is affectionately known, and two females were traveling north up through Griffin Bay on the east side of San Juan Island today.  It was a quick trip from the dock for us and the rest of the whale watch fleet.  Especially when they led us right back past Friday Harbor.

T40 is a well known and easily recognizable orca due to his distinctive dorsal fin.  At some point in time he must have suffered an injury to the top 1/4 of his fin which causes it to curl over to the left.  Consequently, he has a "hook" which spawned his identity and makes him a sought after sighting specimen in the orca and whale watch world.  Not to mention that he is simply a very impressive older male orca.  His estimated age is 49 years and with male orcas presumed to live between 50 and 60 years, Capt. Hook is possibly getting towards the end of his life.  He is still large and strong though and continues to cover large amounts of water here in the Eastern North Pacific.

Generally an Alaskan local, T40 showed up last year for the first time in many years.  He was seen for a few days and then left for the rest of the season.  Surprisingly, he reappeared more than a week ago back in these waters with the same two females he was swimming with today.  Since the food that they are after, other marine mammals, are constantly on the move in random patterns, then the Transient orcas move in the same manner.  It is for that reason that the familial relationships within the Transient population are not as well know as those of our Resident orcas.

It was a wonderful encounter today, being able to spend time with a big sexy animal like Capt. Hook.  Hopefully, he will be around for many years to come captivating the attention and curiosity of researchers and lay people alike.  And if you ever have any question about where to find him, just remember, follow the "second star to the right and go straight on 'til morning."

So, from all of us at San Juan Safaris, to all of you never want to grow up, thank you and we will...

See You In The Islands!

~Tristen, Naturalist