July 10, 2018

Perfect Pacific Northwest Day

Captain Pete, naturalist Alexandria and I were excited to work together on this rare rainy day in July on the San Juan Islands. During the summer, the islands stay dry and we usually don’t see rain until mid-September again! Without any whale reports in the area yet this morning, we decided to head North up the San Juan Channel and see what we could find. On the way up, we came close to the West side of Orcas and cut through the inside of Yellow island scanning the waters in that area while communicating with other boats.  It was starting to get more gray out and the rain seemed eager to come down on us, but with high hopes we kept carefully scanning the waters. As we were passing Jones Island, we got a report of a large group of transient whales further up north found by another boat. Happy and excited that we had whales, we announced it to the guests and showed them where we were headed on the chart- to the Canadian Gulf Islands! They were not too far north yet so we were able to cut through Spieden Channel and encounter them closer to Turn Point on Stuart Island. As we rounded the tip of Stuart, we saw some dorsal fins breaking the water in the distance and then a couple a little further west from those. As we came closer to the whales, we were able to confirm there was in fact two different group of transient killer whales traveling together- a total of 10 animals! As Captain Pete located the boat to where we could get the best view, the whales started being very social- tail slapping, breaching, spy hopping, pectoral slapping, and lots of porpoising behavior as they quickly moved north. The two groups who were earlier keeping distance from one another ended up all meeting up very close to the shore of Stuart and kept socializing with lots of splashing. At one point, I even saw an orca with “Bull Kelp hair” which I had never seen in person before- this behavior is called Kelping when they play around the kelp and try to get it around their head and tail. We followed them South along the coast of Stuart Island as it started getting really wet out, but of course none of us minded with these orcas in our view. Right before peeling off to head home, they turned away from Stuart heading right towards our boat taking a deeper dive. As we were looking around for them, all the sudden all 10 animals surfaced a couple of feet from our boat letting us see their massive black and white bodies! This was truly amazing and made for the best rainy day out on the water yet!!

Mariana, Naturalist, San Juan Safaris