This Tuesday, May 3rd we set out again on another warm, sunny day. Today it was Captain Brian and I heading north with a great crew of folks form all over world here for various conferences in Seattle. Since it was a little bit hotter today everything was spending as much time in the water as possible. The Harbor Seals would poke their heads up to stare at us, and the Steller’s Sea Lions were rafting up together, doing spins, an loudly snorting their exhales up and out of the water like snot rockets. Going north means we get a great view of all the big islands in the San Juans with snowcapped Mt. Baker looming ever present in the east. Just before going into Canada we turned west to go around the north side of San Juan and Henry Islands and soon enough we were on the west side. In the summer this side of the island, officially known as Haro Strait, is called Whale Country, because the Southern Resident Orcas travel up and down this coast chasing their favorite food Chinook Salmon. The schools of salmon have to dodge dramatic underwater rock shelves that appear as the depth changes quickly from hundreds of feet to around twenty over only a few feet of distance. The orcas will use this to their advantage by chasing the salmon towards the shallower areas and once they are confined there, chomp! They’ll eat till their hearts are content.
This is where we spotted the orcas today. The J-16 family was milling around the west side a little bit more south than Kellett Bluffs. This a family of six orcas and two of them are brand new calves! J-16, Slick, has four children: J-26, J-36, J-42, and a new calf, J-50. J-36, Alki, also had new calf, J-52, Sonic! SO Slick is now a grandmother! The other two nicknames are Mike for J-26 and Echo for J-42. The new mothers seemed pretty busy just socializing and following their calves wherever they went and it looked like their calves couldn’t really decide where they wanted to go. They traveled back and forth along the bluffs, the mothers watching as the new calves Sonic and Scarlet jumped and played in the waves. The other two Mike and Echo looked like they were keeping busy eating and chasing salmon away from the babies. It was absolutely awe inspiring to just float there and watch this family be completely themselves, with calves breaching, the moms watch (and maybe cheering) and the younger siblings ignoring the entire family.
Whale folks that’s another San Juanderful day here for us, hope yours is as well.
M/V Sea Lion