July 8, 2013

Superpod At Last

The endangered population of Southern Resident Killer Whales that frequent the salmon-rich waters of the Salish Sea form “superpod” only a handful of times during the summer season. Three extended families (known as J, K, and L pod) join together and travel as one unit, making up only 82 remaining members. Superpod is characterized by a great deal of social behavior, including breaching, mating, and vocalizing. At this point in the season, we would expect to have seen all three pods, and possibly a few instances of superpod already.

But if you’ve been following our blogs, our sightings of the resident killer whales over the past weeks have been atypical. For the past several days, only three resident animals (a subpod of L pod) have been lingering on the west side of San Juan Island. The rest of L pod has been absent; J pod departed the Salish Sea over a month ago; and, K pod hasn’t bothered to show their blow holes once this summer!

So imagine the naturalist’s glee when we heard the news that superpod was making its way east from Victoria, British Columbia. By the time the M/V “Sea Lion,” carrying its shipment of giddy guests and naturalists, emerged from a low-hanging fog bank and arrived on scene, the whales had already crossed half of Haro Strait.

What a show! Initially whales were porpoising with an incoming tide toward False Bay and Lime Kiln State Park on San Juan Island. Then they veered north and we enjoyed several close encounters near Turn Point on Stuart Island. Our hydrophone brought the beautiful song of several animals to the ears of our awestruck guests. We hope there is enough salmon to keep them here for a much-anticipated extended stay.

Naturalist, M/V "Sea Lion"
San Juan Safaris