It was a cool morning, and the reports that Capt. Gabe and I were hearing were that most of our nearby Southern Resident Orcas were on the south end of San Juan Island. But, one family group, the J-16's were headed east from Discovery Island in Canada! So we all headed out of Roche Harbor to meet up with one of my family groups. So, the Southern Resident Killer Whales that live here live in large groups called pods, and each of these three pods - J, K, and L - are made up of smaller family groups. Since orcas are matrilineal, that means that the oldest female in the group is the one in charge and the family group is named after her. J-16, Slick, has one son, J-26 aka Mike, and two daughters, J-36 Alki, and, J-42 Echo. So as a family group these four will stay close (around 10 miles) to each other. As we got closer to where this family was reported last I think we all were getting excited. We finally first saw Mike and his super tall dorsal fin rise out of the water and all the others shortly surfaced after. We soon saw the two newest memebers of this family group, J-50 and J-52! Both of these calves are under a year old and they'll receive nick-names from the Whale Museum once the get a little bit older. J-52 is the first offspring of Alki, J-36, Congratulations Alki!! and J-50 is the offspring of Slick, J-16, who is currently estimated to be 43 years old, became a grandmother and mother at the same time. A whale deserved Double Congratulations to Slick!!! The two newborns stick really close to their mothers to draft and also nurse while swimming, and they are unbelievably adorable. This family group is amazing the were swimming really fast, but also were pretty active. The adults spyhopped a few times and when we got closer to shore there were several breaches. Woah! It's also extra adorable to see the newborns try to copy the adults. Orcas are a lot like humans in that they have a whole lot of learned behaviors instead of instinctual. So the calves watch their mothers and family members and try their hardest to imitate but it'll take them awhile to prefect it. Once we started to head back to Harbor we stopped and saw an adult and immature bald eagle in a large nest on Battleship Island and a few adorable Harbor Seal pups basking on the exposed rocks!
I hope everyone is having a great summer (Northern Hemisphere)!
M/V Seahawk, San Juan Outfitters