April 7, 2016

San Juan Island Whale Watching at its Finest! Orcas Spotted!

A resting group of Southern Resident Killer Whales

Today we were again treated to orcas close to San Juan Island. On the warmest day of the year (as of yet) and some of the best sunshine we’ve had in a while, it’s safe to say that the stoke factor was high for both guests and crew.

We again left the dock with no reported whales in the area, but as we have seen in the past few days that is in no way indicative of the sightings that we will have out on the trip. We changed things up today and headed south, enjoying the scenery of the shorelines of both San Juan Island and Lopez Island as we cruised through San Juan Channel. We enjoyed watching the many water birds diving through the placid waters of Griffin Bay and were thrilled to have a panoramic view of the entire Olympic Peninsula and the end of Vancouver Island stretching to create the Strait of Juan de Fuca. This notorious Strait is the only opening to the Pacific Ocean for the Salish Sea and Puget Sound ecosystems.

We pushed further and further South, only our fearless leader, Captain Mike, had been that south in search of whales… It was definitely the furthest south either Naturalist Erick or I had been in search of wildlife. Finally, at the mouth of Puget Sound itself, pretty much all the way to Port Townsend, our southerly hunch paid off! Southern Resident Killer Whales!

Erick and I were thrilled to see members of J Pod—Group B, the J17 and the J22 matrilines: in total eleven whales were present between the two families. We got a unique opportunity to observe the two families at rest! The whales were traveling very slowly and in what I like to call a whale cuddle puddle. The whales were constantly intertwined, with the two new babies of the J17s (J53 and J54) right in the middle. We even got to observe J53 nursing from mom J17 Princess Angeline. We also enjoyed seeing J22 Oreo and her two sons J34 Doublestuf and J38 Cookie. J38 Cookie has grown a lot over the winter and is starting to look more and more like a handsome adult bull. We marveled at the similarities between orca and human home life, and definitely developed a grander appreciation for our ocean’s top predators.

On our way back to Friday Harbor we stopped for some awesome views of Steller’s sea lions and harbor seals as well as some beautiful bald eagle fly-bys. All and all a magnificent day out on the water!