September 5, 2018

Southern Resident Orcas are Back! | 9/5/18| 1:30PM

Guests aboard M/V Sea Lion along with naturalist Jordan, Captain Gabe and I were ready to get out on the water on this beautiful September day! After a smokey August, September was starting out pleasantly- sunny and warm days. After around three weeks of not seeing the southern residents in our waters, they had finally came back in. Gosh! We missed them! 

There were reports of a subgroup of L-pod around- the L12s not too far away from the harbor. The rest of the residents were reported to be further North, but we were thankful these guys had been lingering behind in our waters for a couple of days. After boarding our guests and talking about the wildlife we may encounter today, we headed out of the harbor and up the San Juan Channel. As we rounded San Juan Island, we took Spieden Channel to come into Haro Strait. As we came around the west side of San Juan Island, we could see a few boats in the distance. Excited to see the residents again, I could not take my binoculars away from my eyes. WOOOSH, a big black dorsal came up in the distance, and then another. They seemed to be very spread out. As we came closer to them, we could see them heading south down the strait pretty quickly, so we struggled to stay parallel to them. We watched these guys surface and change directions for quite a while. 

After some good looks, we decided to go check out L41- one o the oldest and biggest males in Lpod, who seemed to be far offshore and trailing behind. Getting close to D’Arcy island, we got the best and most clean looks at him gracefully cutting the water with his huge dorsal fin. He is such treat to see, what a cool and intimidating whale! Once we pulled away from him, we headed south east closer to the coast of San Juan Island, where the rest of the group seemed to be headed. We were struggling to stay with them, since they were staying so spread out and taking long dives. After a while of following parallel to the coast, we saw another big bull surface, whom I thought was L41 because he is the only full grown bull in this subgroup. To my surprise, it was not, once we got a better look it was L89! This meant we must have a different group with us too! Exciting news, more whales to look at! We followed them down the coast all the way to San Juan County Park, where we were able to see a couple of breaches in a row before pulling off! What an amazing last look at these iconic group of orcas. 

Captain Gabe then decided to circumnavigate San Juan Island and keep heading south. We got some beautiful looks at Lime Kilm lighthouse and American camp/south beach area before entering Cattle Pass. Of course it would not have been such a cool trip without stopping at Whale Rocks to see the Steller sea lions and harbor seals hauled out! We were even lucky enough to see a breeding pair of oyster catchers going crazy on the rocks. 

Mariana, Naturalist, San Juan Safaris