Today Captain Gabe and I left Roche Harbor on the ol' Hawk joined by a fantastic family and ready for adventure! After a leisurely cruise theough Speiden Channel to the East side of San Juan Island to handle some touching family matters, we decided to venture North in search of the most majestic monochrome mammals around, Orcas! We had heard reports of the Southern Residents making their way around Turn Point, the most Northwesterly point in the San Juan Islands.
We decided to head directly North into Boundary Pass to catch up to the second fastest marine mammal in the world (using the second slowest boat in Roche Harbor). As we chugged along we had some amazing conversations on the deck about everything from Orcas in their natutal habitat to wolves in Yellowstone National Park to different nature-themed dreams we have all had and beyond. The easily flowing conversations were punctuated with occasional sightings of harbor seals and one massive fried-egg jellyfish until we got into Boundary Pass, one of the few waterways thst forms a border between the United States and Canada.
The first thing that was noticeable was Mt. Baker, enormous and perpetually snowcapped, looming over the Salsih Sea. This mountain, at just over ten thousand feet tall, is actually one of the dormant volcanoes that makes up the Cascade mountain range. Its lofty peaks are covered with glaciated snow, compressed under each year's new snowfall into super-dence ice that feeds several rivers and streams that are slowly eating away at the mountain, bringing sediment into the Salish Sea.
As I'm sure we all thought "the only thing that could make this better would be some Orcas", we saw a few other boats in Canadian waters. We got in line and thats when we began to see them: black dorsal fins emerging from the water. It was K Pod! All three matrilines, the K13s, K12s and the K14s were present, making up a whopping fourteen members of the Southern Resident Killer Whale population. However, their relatively small pod size was compensated by their enthusiasm! Shortly after we arrived on the scene, we began to see Scoter (K25) upside down and slapping his flukes on the water followed by a breach! The rest of the family followed suit with spyhops, tail slaps, partial and full breaches for at least a half-hour! seeing the largest carnivore in the world obviously playing and having a blast is an image not soon forgotten.
We could have stayed for hours and hours more, but we unfortunately had a schedule to keep. We said goodbye to the K Krew as they splashed and leapt their way into the Strait of Georgia under the crystal clear image of Mt. Baker.
On our way back to Roche Harbor we saw more wildlife including Harbor seals, rhinoceros auklets, and a flyover by a juvenile bald eagle!
We had an incredible time with awesome wildlife, awesome people and awesome conversation out on the water today,
Another Whale of a Day in the San Juan Islands!
Naturalist Mike J
San Juan Outfitters