Transient killer whales exaggeratedly coming out of the water to breath, a behavior we often see when the whales are moving quickly.
Captain Gabe, Captain Jim and I made a quick 15-minute turn around between our first and second trip of the day. We were in a bit of a hurry due to a longer first tour, and we wanted to get out to the west side of the island so that on our second tour, we could spend as much time as possible with the orcas that were spotted there. When we left the dock, the reports were of whales about 45 minutes south of the exit from Mosquito Pass, which is another 30 minutes from the dock. So we prepared for a long traverse to the whales, with hopes of being able to move north with them the entire way back.
About 10 minutes outside of Mosquito, we saw whale boats just a few minutes away. These whales were moving. Excited, we approached the other boats and fell in line to watch these transient orcas. Almost immediately, we noticed that they were being very active for transients. Because transients are hunting mammals, they generally have to be a lot stealthier, which means no splashing at the surface, jumping, etc. But these guys must have been full, or at least not having any trouble finding food--it even appeared that they may have made a few quick kills as we moved along with them. They were tail slapping, rolling, porpoising, it was quite the show. In fact, it may have been my most exciting viewing of the season thus far. Not only were they more active than transients usually are, but they were also in a much larger group than is typical, which of course just added to the excitement.
Although we had a pretty small group aboard for this trip, there was enough screaming and excitement in the air to fool someone in to thinking we had a full boat. Everyone got great photos and left the boat happy and certain that they just had the best part of their stay on San Juan Island.
M/V Sea Hawk