Today Captain Pete and I loaded up the Seahawk with passengers from Texas, Seattle, Colorado, and even France, and left the Roche Harbor dock in search of wildlife. We had heard that there were whales wayyyyyy down south near Heind Bank at the confluence of the Haro Strait and the Strait of Juan de Fuca so we went South through the ever twisty Mosquito Pass.
As we began to motor down the West coast of San Juan Island, Pete and I were discussing that the tide was on its way in. As water floods the Salish Sea from the open Pacific ocean, many salmon find themselves inexplicably concentrated along the shoreline as they make their way towards the Fraser river to spawn. the Southern Resident Orcas, having fished this salmon run for generations, must have an idea about this phenomenon, and tend to fish along the shoreline during high tide. So, as we continued toward our reports (pretty far for the ol' Hawk to chug) we kept our eyes shoreward.
Following our noses paid off because soon enough we caught a glimpse of a massive black dorsal fin and a blow, followed by an entire orca being propelled into the air! Even at a distance a breaching killer whale is an incredible sight to behold. As we got a bit closer, we were able to get a better look at this male and his two companions and recognized them as the J22 matriline of J22 (Oreo), J34 (Doublestuff) and J38 (Cookie). We know this matriline as the Cookie clan, and they know that area as good eatin'. We watched as they cruised the glassy waters of the Haro strait; occasionally angling steeply to dive into the water and catch ever elusive Chinook salmon. This wonderful meal was interrupted only by a juvenile pink salmon that jumped nearly into our boat!
As the J22s made their way south, so did we until we ran into another familiar saddle patch, that of J17 or Princess Angeline! This diva of a matriarch literally swam circles around us as she and the rest of her matriline (including her three children and two grandchildren) echolocated and munched their way through the tranquil water. After getting some great looks, we left these esteemed members of J Pod to their task as we began our journey back to Roche Harbor.
As usual, we enjoyed the scenic ride back up the West side and through Mosquito Pass to the inevitable disembarking at the dock, stopping to watch a Stellar's sea lion munching on a pink salmon before disappearing back into the water of the channel.
Another Whale of a Day in the San Juan Islands!
Naturalist Mike J