September 30, 2017

Resident Orcas Rock Our World!

Pair of orcas approaching whale watch vessel near San Juan Island

09/27/17 – M/V Sea Lion – 12 PM

With great morning reports, M/V Sea Lion departed Friday Harbor Marina in search of Southern Resident orcas. The warm air giving the illusion that summer hadn’t left just yet, passengers relaxed in the sun on the bow as we headed to the south side of San Juan Island. Just as we rounded Cattle Point, there they were! Off in the distance were black knife-like dorsal fins cutting the surface after a bush of mist exhalation. Captain Gabe slowed our speed to help reduce our ocean noise and headed into the area. Members of L and J Pod were all around the boat in various distances. Holding our spot, we watched as they frolicked all about when suddenly a small group of two orcas turned in our direction. Captain Gabe cut the engine, and we watched as the pair swan just below the surface from one side of our stern to the next. WOW! What amazing views of the brilliant coloration of these charismatic animals.

Another group of animals rolled, tail slapped, and splashed around off the bow when one of the younger individuals loudly vocalized at the surface. The entire boat cheered at this absolutely amazing experience. J27, a large male known as Blackberry, surfaced out in the distance with exhalations so powerful they sounded like they were right next to us. Heading in his direction, the other group continued to vocalize under the surface, still audible to everyone on board.

As we tried to make our way back to Friday Harbor a third group of whales turned in our direction and halted our travel. An individual in the group spyhopped about a boat length from our port (left) side! If that wasn’t amazing enough, another animal began to play with some bull kelp right off the swim step along the back railing of the stern! After giving everyone on board quite the show, this group headed out to the others swimming further offshore and we continued our journey home.

Everyone was all smiles when M/V Sea Lion arrived at the dock, with the heart-eyes emoticon clearly floating above their heads after this breathtaking day on the water. A day that will forever be one of our favorite memories.

-Naturalist Courtney