September 16, 2018

Where are the whales?|9/16/18|12:00pm

Guests aboard M/V Sea Lion along with Cpt. Gabe, naturalist Alexandria and I were excited to get on the water on this rainy September day with a report of transient and southern resident orcas in our area. Eager to get everyone on the boat and ready to pick up speed we took off to go find these animals ourselves. 

As of earlier, the transient orca report had been spotted by kayakers and no one else, so we went to the general area to try and find them again. With no luck or dorsals in sight, we kept heading south to where our resident pods were hanging out. About halfway down Haro strait, the weather was starting to get nasty- 2-3 foot waves and rainy! Skeptical about what the waters look further down, we continued under way until we got a report that the transients had been found up north. Excited to get out of the unpleasant weather, we made a U-turn to go find these transients at last. 

But wait, whoever had found these “orcas” had actually been looking at harbor porpoises! My oh my, they were only trying to help, but now getting a bit inpatient we again turned south to go see our resident orcas! Finally reaching the west side of san juan island, the weather was surprisingly getting calmer and the guests felt more comfortable. Almost to County park, we spotted some resident orcas coming our way-Identified as K-pod and very spread out. Seeing many orca in the waters around us, We decided to stay where we were and waited for them to go around us trying our best to keep the distance. In every direction, we were spotting dorsals and were even lucky enough to get some social behavior from them-my favorite being the spyhopping. At one point, when we had just thought they had all continued North, we spotted Spock, who came to say hello feet from our boat. The whole way down the strait, there were still whales surfacing in all directions and I was able to spot a calf. Confirming reports from earlier, that Lpod was in fact here too. 

With little time to head back, we continued south circumnavigating san juan island spotting some Dall’s porpoises on the way. Reaching Cattle Pass, we spotted a massive steller sea lion in the middle of a bait ball chomping down on a salmon whom later went on to round our boat and growl at us as he swam away! Headed up the channel on our way home, the skies were starting to clear up and the sunshine was peeking through. Welcome back to Friday Harbor folks!

Mariana, Naturalist, San Juan Safaris