Today Captain Jim and I took off on the ol' Seahawk with a boatload of excited and curious passengers from Kentucky to Alaska, sun in the sky, and wildlife on the brain. As we left Roche Harbor headed North, it didn't take us long to find what we were looking for: ORCAS!!
We caught up with the Southern Resident Killer Whale community just past Battleship rock (a bird sanctuary that was mistaken for an American warship by British troops during the Pig War) and watched something spectacular unfold.
At first we saw one pod of our famous black-and-white dolphins traveling, splashing, and even breaching a bit! Then we saw another group go by just as enthusiastically, and another and another! What we were whitnessing can be described with only one word: SUPERPOD!
The Southern Resident Killer Whale population is comprised of eighty-one individual whales this year (with four new calves!), separated into J Pod, K Pod, and L Pod. For the most part, each of these families (which is further broken down into matrilinial nuclear families) tends to travel on their own throughout most of the year, occasionally mixing and mingling with one of the other pods. Superpod, however, is a celebrated event in which all three pods, J, K and L, make an appearance in a big way. Not only are they traveling together, but they are jumping and slapping and diving and eating and generally making quite a splash at this Whale of a family reunion.
The spectacle we were witnessing held up to our expectations. We got some great looks at the J22 matriline of J Pod (also known as the Cookie Clan) as well as the K13 matriline of K Pod including large males Scoter and Tikka, and our very large-of-dorsal-fin female friend, Spock.
Each and every whale that we saw (and we lost count after about thirty) was practicing their entire repertoire of ecstatic behaviors. We all felt extremely fortunate to be watching these animals literally jumping for joy at the prospect of a productive summer in the Salish Sea.
We paralleled these whales all the way around Turn Point and into Boundary Pass, where the backdrop of their frolicking became an unreal view of the colossal Mt. Baker. What more could a naturalist, a captain, and a happy boat full of paasengers ask for??
After what seemed like an eternity watching the breachfest unfold as the superpod made their way North into Canadian waters, we decided to say our goodbyes and begin our journey home.
Along the way back to Roche harbor we headed through the Cactus Islands and saw some other incredible wildlife including Harbor seals, a majestic pair of bald eagles, and lots and lots of seabirds.
As usual, our three hours on the water seemed much too short as we came.back into the dock.
Another Whale of a day in the San Juan Islands!
Naturalsit Mike J
San Juan Outfitters