June 12, 2013

Sea Lion Goes East!

Working on a tip from other whale watching boats, Captain Mike, Naturalists Andrew and Heather, and a hopeful crew, departed the Friday Harbor docks and set course for the northeast tip of Orcas Island. I made it known to our guests that we were embarking on a unique cruise. The majority of the time, the M/V “Sea Lion” explores the west side of the San Juan Islands, as the southern resident killer whale pods are known to focus their activity there. But two days ago, the resident orcas vanished from the Salish Sea. Since then our focus has turned to other whales that may remain in the area. Yesterday it was minke whales, today it was transient killer whales.

We caught up with the orcas on the north side of Orcas Island, an area with sweeping views of steep-sided Lummi Island and the remote, lesser-known islands marking the southern extent of the vast Strait of Georgia. Against this backdrop we watched a group of 5 killer whales hunting. Noticing their change of behavior, we decided to try deploying our hydrophone and were rewarded with some eerie and beautiful vocalizations.

Before we turned the team, we took the opportunity to check Puffin Island for...puffins. These iconic seabirds once nested here in numbers, but have all but disappeared from the inland waters over the last decade. There were no puffins to be seen today; however, a stately mating pair of bald eagles and abundant harbor seals made it worth the detour. We finished off the trip by completing our scenic circumnavigation of Orcas Island.

Andrew, Naturalist (M/V Sea Lion), San Juan Safaris