July 16, 2010

A Small Miracle

During June, July and August, we see the orcas almost every single day because they are following the path of spawning salmon. A salmon's life cycle is not complete without a journey back to the river of its birth- returning from the open ocean, it spawns and dies. In the winter, the orcas ply the open ocean where the salmon winter as well. But in the summer the salmon run through the San Juan Islands on their way to the Fraser River in British Columbia.  This time of year the orcas can be found anywhere from the open pacific 70 miles southwest of us to the Fraser River about 30 miles north of us. We are lucky that, in the midst of this wide range, they grace the 15 mile stretch of the west side of San Juan Island on an almost daily basis.

That has not been the case the past few days. They have tested the limits of our range almost every single day. Yesterday J Pod was close by- on the south end of the island, off south beach in fact. Not so today or the 2 days before yesterday. It was a miracle that we caught up with them at both Active Pass and the coal docks. From the coal docks, one can see the skyscrapers of Vancouver BC.  It takes our boat an hour and a half to get to the coal docks, so round trip, that's 3 hours of traveling time. It doesn't leave much time for harbor seals or eagles, and on days like this, we are with the whales for about 30 minutes. But we persevere come hell or high water and we get there. It is a small miracle. A miracle reinforced when one sees the orcas breaching or a mother caressing her calf as they swim sedately by.

Lauren Sands

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Naturalists Tristen and Lauren by Tim & Judy Cashman

Naturalists Tristen and Lauren by Tim & Judy Cashman