Today Captain Pete and I took an excellent group out on the Sea Hawk to look for wildlife. We had heard that there was some Killer Whale action East of Orcas Island in Rosario Strait, so we began our long luxurious cruise in between Orcas and Shaw/Lopez. Along the way we saw plenty of Harbor Seals and bald eagles until in the distance we began to see lots of puffs of air and black dorsal fins sneaking out of the water.
We came up on about half of J Pod as they were resting. Marine mammals have a bit of a challenge to overcome when it comes to sleeping. Living in the water, they have to think each time they want to breathe. The blowhole by default is closed and they must conciously flex a muscle in order to open it up. Because they must be concois to breath, they cannot shut down their entire brain to sleep like we can. Instead whales and dolphins will shut down half their brain at a time, leaving one hemisphere active to breathe, swim and look out for its surroundings. After a few hours, they will switch sides. Using this method, whales literally sleep with one eye open!
It is quite impressive to see a pod of 15 resident Orcas slowly rising from the water in unison to breathe and then slowly sinking back beneath the surface. We watched as the J2 pod the J19 pod and the J22 pod meandered north along the coast of Cypress island and then decided to wale up a bit. We saw 3 Orcas spyhop together to get a quick look at wverything above the surface, and we saw a new calf, J51, swimming upside down. The excitement was short lived before they went back to "sleep" and we took off to begin our journey back to Roche Harbor.
Quite a sight to see, we all had a Whale of a time!
Naturalist Mike J
M/V Sea Hawk
San Juan Outfitters