July 19, 2012

Words Cannot Describe the Awesomeness

I cannot even put into words how amazing, awesome, exhilarating, and fun this afternoon’s trip was. Seriously, words cannot describe the whales, but I’ll do my best share this experience. We left Friday Harbor heading east with reports of whales in Rosario Strait. This is the first thing that made today special; typically we travel north or south of San Juan Island, not east between the islands which is absolutely beautiful on a clear, sunny day like today.

We reached the whales at 48° 36.73’N 122° 44.88’W. At first we spotted a large group of probably ten or more killer whales, but as we looked around, there were several large groups. Dorsal fins were slicing through the water’s surface everywhere! Big ones, small ones, sizes in between! We were witnessing a super pod; members from J, K, and L pods were present, at least twenty, if not thirty whales. We watched as the whales spread out horizontally and started swimming towards each other: a greeting ceremony! The whales then split into two groups. Both groups were active. You name the behavior, we saw it. They were spy hopping, lob tailing, pectoral slapping, cartwheeling, back diving, and yes, BREACHING! One small whale breached six or seven times in a row! Additionally, we heard their vocalizations both above water and underwater via the hydrophone, as well as their distinctive blows from either side of our boat.

All this activity in tight groups made it difficult to identify individuals (honestly, there was so much to watch I forgot about trying to figure out who we were seeing), but Tara and I were able to ID the super distinctive 35 year old male L-41, Mega, as well as L74, Saanich. Plus, the whales were not the only wildlife in the area; we also spotted a bald eagle and harbor seals resting on Peapod Rocks. I know this sounds amazing, but this post still does not do justice to the absolutely spectacular trip it was.

~Kristen, Naturalist, San Juan Safaris