July 15, 2010

Summer Time Whale Watching

Yesterday, we had a long haul north to view the orcas with a backdrop of the skyline of Vancouver. So, after such a long trek, it was great news that the orcas were heading toward the south end of Lopez Island as the M.V. Sea Lion departed Friday Harbor. After a quick cruise through Cattle Pass we caught up with a group of quickly moving orcas heading up the south end of San Juan Safaris. Orcas can travel up to 30 MPH for very short periods of time, but we rarely see them moving at speeds beyond 5-7 MPH. Today, a couple of tight-knit traveling orca groups swam across Cattle Pass, the starting picking up the pace. They began porpoising, which is a behavior where they hurl more of their bodies out of the water as a way to pick up speed (resistance in air is lesser than that in water.) At one point they reached a speed of about 7-8 knots (1 knot = 1.15 MPH). We witnessed an occasional breach and spyhop, which provoked squeals of joy from the guests aboard (okay, okay, from me, as well.)
It was an absolutely breathtaking day on the water!

Ashley, Naturalist