Piper | Thursday, August 15, 2019 | M/V Sea Hawk | 2:00 PM

Today Captain Erick and I were incredibly excited to take a group of people out on the water from Roche Harbor because there were reports of Southern Resident Killer Whales in the area! The SRKWs are a critically endangered ecotype of orca that used to spend their summers splashing around the Salish Sea every day, however in the last few years sightings of these salmon-eating orcas have been very low as they spend more and more time in open ocean looking for their beloved Chinook, or King, salmon.

These whales were cruising up and down the west side of San Juan Island and when we arrived they were just north of the Lime Kiln Lighthouse, swimming north towards San Juan County Park! It was not long till they were in sight and we watched as two matrilines (or families of two matriarchs) moved through the waters so gracefully.

We were able to identify the two families as the J16s and the J11s, which included the newest baby of the Southern Residents, J56, daughter of J31 “Tsuchi”! It was so wonderful to be able to see this bouncing baby orca swimming around as she’s only the second successful birth in the last four years (the first being born earlier this year).

After a while of traveling north, we witnessed the orcas do a dual spyhop before turning around and heading back south! After a half hour we left the orcas to hopefully keep catching salmon while we searched for other wildlife!

We spotted a few harbor seals and harbor porpoises on our way around Spieden Island and through John’s Pass as we motored toward Waldron Island, where a humpback whale had been seen swimming in San Juan Channel!

We arrived on scene and stopped the boat to look and listen for the humpback’s blow. It was a long dive but I spotted it out in the distance and we headed over there, getting some awesome views as it moved back and forth across the channel.

Eventually we had to head back to the marina, but it was an absolutely wonderful day on the water!