T46s in the Straight of Juan De Fuca

T46s in the Straight of Juan De Fuca

 

This morning, Captain Gabe, and Captain Jim, and Naturalist Erick, and I all took a Sierra Club charter on an M/V Sea Hawk cruise. This group was willing to do whatever it took to see whales, so they booked a 5 hour tour, as opposed to the usual 3-hour. This basically means that we're able to go farther. Whales that are "out-of-range" due to time constraints on a 3-hour, may be in range on a 5-hour because we have more time.

As it turns out, today was a good day to have extra time. The only killer whale reports were almost 25 miles south of Roche Harbor, a distance that the Sea Hawk almost never goes--and DEFINITELY not in 3 hours. All in all, we ended up just offshore of Sequim land spit, looking at the T46s and T122, a group of 5 individuals. They were swimming in almost perfect unison, at about 9 mph. This is quite a bit faster than cruising speed. While orcas can reach speeds of up to 30 mph, that only lasts a few moments, while they generally cruise at 3-4 mph for long distances. Soon after noticing their high speed, we caught a few glimpses of harbor porpoises a mile or so in the distance, seemingly in the direction the T46s were heading. One hunting strategy employed by transient killer whales is to tire their prey out to make ti easier to catch and drown them later. It is very possible that these whales were aware of the harbor porpoise ahead, and were just waiting for the right moment to strike, so to speak. Unfortunately, we didn't get to stay and watch anything play out because we did have to get back to Roche Harbor at a reasonable hour, but we got great looks at an awesome group of transients! It turned out to be a 6 hour tour, a record, for me anyway.

Naturalist Alex

M/V Sea Hawk

San Juan Outfitters