Today the ol' Hawk had yet another whaley good adventure crewed by Captain Gabe and myself!
Love was in the air as we left the dock in Roche Harbor with an excited wedding party on board to head out and find some wildlife. Using celebratory luck to find marine mammals hasn't failed us yet, and today was no exception.
Minutes after leaving the harbor we had our first bit of excitement: a Humpback whale right in Spieden channel! We are seeing more and more of these thirty-to-fourty foot behemoths as many begin their annual migration from northern waters in Alaska and British Columbia to warmer waters off Mexico and Hawaii. The waters of the Salish Sea provide a welcome, nutrient-rich stopover during this 2,500 mile journey.
We got some excellent looks at this humpy as it exhaled a massive breath of air that vaporized several gallons of water to create the characteristic "blow". It then arched its back and revealed the massive flukes that make such great photographs, and propel fpurty tons of whale around in the water. These flukes had some readily visible barnacles hanging off its tail, probably one good smack would get them to lose their grip.
After this last terminal dive, we continued north in our search for the main event: Southern Resident Orcas! We made our way even further North through John's Pass and into Boundary pass to the tune of five black dorsal fins rising from the water and the corresponding orcas blowing in unison, all in front of a looming Mt. Baker vista.
It appeared that we watching some whales from L Pod casually making their way North to feed near the mouth of the Fraser river. Two of the dorsals present were far taller than the rest, belonging to L84 (Nyssa) and L88 (Wave Walker). Both of these males are the last surviving members of their respective matrilines, or nuclear families, and were traveling with the L54 matriline consisting of L54 (Ino) and her two offspring L108 (Coho) and L117 (Keta).
We watched with awe as these huge black-and-white dolphins made their way up the channel when suddenly, L54 spyhopped! "Spyhopping" is when a whale pokes its head out of the water to take a look around in the surface. Perhaps she was checking out the surrounding boats, or perhaps she was taking a look at the snowcapped Mt. Baker, finally visible after several weeks of smoke and clouds.
As always, we eventually had to bid the L54's adue and begin our journey home. This seemingly quick trip, however, was not without it's surprises. We stopped to check out a several-month-old harbor seal that was looking at us when a loud snort alerted us to the Stellar's sea lion that had also surfaced nearby. Although the world's largest Otarrid (sea lion) has been recorded eatonf harbor seals from time to time, it seemed like there was no conflict here.
As we came around Spieden Island we encountered a menagerie of wildlife: introduced Fallow deer on the grassy hillside, a bald eagle sitting right in the grass that took flight as we saw it, and our old friend the humpback whale feeding by the shoreline.
We were nearly overwhelmed with nature, awesome views and of course whales, but somehow we made it back to Roche Harbor in one piece.
Another Whale of a Day in the San Juan Islands!
Naturalist Mike J
San Juan Outfitters