July 18, 2016

Orcas and Humpback Whales in the Waters around San Juan Island

L94 Calypso surfacing at San Juan Island

Yesterday we enjoyed yet another stunning July day on the water around San Juan Island.  Naturalist Erick, Captain Mike and I were excited to be able to share some of our famous, critically endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales (SRKWs) with our guests on the 1:30 departure from Friday Harbor. The water was glassy and as we cruised the air was just the right level of chilly over the water. It was a perfect day to watch some whales.

We were lucky enough to encounter some of L-pod, the L12 matriline to be specific, just off shore from Eagle Point. Within their larger pods orcas live in tight-knit family units centered around their mothers. In the SRKW population the whales never leave their mothers and this system is very concrete. We first spent some time with L94 “Calypso” and her two kiddos seven-year-old female L113 “Cousteau” and 18-month-old male L121 “Windsong.” The two younger orcas spent time rolling around, playing, and refining their fishing skills as their mother foraged by herself. It is not unusual to see babysitting behavior between siblings and these moments can be crucial in developing maternal skills for later on in life for young females. We also had a chance to encounter some of the other L12s, L77 “Matia” and her four-year-old daughter L119 “Joy” were also foraging nearby.

We left the killer whales on shore to check out some of our other cetaceans in the Salish Sea: HUMPBACKS! We were fortunate to find a pair of these behemoths out in the middle of Haro Strait. We watched as the huge animals exhaled and brought their massive tails to the surface. I always feel humbled watching them move through our waters!

L121 Windsong tail lobbing
Orca calf tail slapping near San Juan Island Sarah McCullagh