Today Captain Jim and Naturalist Mike boarded the M/V/ Sea Hawk with a boat full of happy people: some celebrating a wedding, some on a honeymoon and some celebrating a 50th wedding anniversary! We love going out with happy people, and they were about to become much happier as we broke the news to them that we had reports of J Pod, part of the Southern Resident Killer Whale population, heading our way!
We left the dock heading North out of Roche Harbor and didn't spend more than 15 minutes in Spieden Channel before we intercepted the J16 matriline in Neil Bay. J16 (Slick) is a 42-year-old Orca who is the oldest killer whale on record to have a calf! She gave birth this past December to J50, and J36 (Alki), a daughter of J16, followed suit and gave birth to J52 in March. J26 (Mike) is also an offspring of Slick, and he is instantly recognizable with his six foot dorsal fin and open saddle patch.
These whales, along with other members of J Pod including J27 (Blackberry) were extremely happy and playful as they cruised along Henry island towards the west side of San Juan Island. We witnessed lots of fun behaviors including tail-slapping, pec-slapping, spy-hopping, porpoising, and even several full breaches! everyone on board enjoyed watching the spectacle of these incredible animals clearly enjoying their time in the San Juans. We stuck with them for quite a while until we decided to say goodbye to J pod and head up to find some more wildlife. We headed back north and cruised through Mosquito Pass to see some harbor seals in the glassy water, some bald eagles flying up in the clear blue sky and even some Great Blue Herons on the rocks, one drying its outstreched wings and one looking for a low-tide snack. We continued north to the Cactus islands to see lots of harbor seals hauled out on an exposed reef, warming up their bodies to prepare for more time in the cold water of the Salish Sea. While many were eager to look at this boat full of people, one was leisurely sleeping in a nearby kelp bed! what a life.
After this, we made our way back along the glassy water towards Roche Harbor to end our day with lots of incredible wildlife sightings, happy crew, and happy passengers. All in all, another Whale of a day!
Naturalist Mike J
M/V Sea Hawk