On Friday you could feel the the coolness of September creeping up on the end of August, and Capt. Jim and I were heading north to meet up with our wonderful Southern Resident Killer Whales, and little did we know that it would be one of the best whale watching trips...ever. The orcas seemed to be moving quicker than we expected since we saw them just past Battleship Island soon after we left Roche Harbor.
It was some members of J pod. We saw two of the big males in the distance and moved in to parallel them as they seemed to be heading towards Turn Point. It didn't take long though to realize that we were surrounded by far more whales than we originally thought. Blackberry (J-27) skimmed past with the J-17s in tow led by Princess Angeline (J-17) herself. On the port we had the glinting dorsals of the J-2's led by Granny (J-2) and J-49 and on the starboard Blackberry and the J-17s showed their saddle patches and flukes as they cruised through rapids close to Stuart Island.
I had originally thought that these J podders were simply traveling, but they soon proved me wrong as they started changing directions and diving deeper looking for salmon in the standing waves created by the strong tidal current rushing past Turn Point. We sat there with orcas in all directions swimming to and fro, past us, and in front with only the sound of human gasps and orca exhales filling our ears. As quickly as they started milling they stopped and started to group up as we all headed to Turn Point and continued north of it.
The J-17s lagged behind with Blackberry while the rest headed further north, and as we all talked about this amazing, sunshine and whale-filled moment five orcas abruptly turned toward us swam quickly around the boat just close enough to the surface so we could see them angling their heads back up to look at us.
It's quite amazing to realize that an orca took a minute out of its day to see what you're all about.
As they moved north, we headed back south to go home with a few more endorphins than we had left with.
Little did we know that the orcas were not done with us.
We soon saw K pod in the distance! The K-13's and the K-14's! Scoter's (K-25) dorsal fin wobbled in the distance as Spock (K-20), Cali (K-34), Comet (K-38), Skagit (K-13), Deadhead (K-27), and Ripple (K-44) swam in front of us maybe to meet up with the lovely J podders we just left. We bid farewell in preparation for our final turn towards home, and perhaps unrelated or perhaps an orca adieu, Kelp (K-42) breached twice as Spock (K-20) spyhopped and clicked an audible, surface vocalization.
With this much wonder you start to think what they think of us.
Whale folks until next time,
Naturalist Erick & Capt. Jim
M/V Seahawk, San Juan Outfitters