Sunshine and zodiac tours watching transient Orcas - what a perfect start to this Sunday!
July 7, 2011
This morning we headed out towards San Juan Island, WA to search for whales, hoping to find some resident orcas. We had rougher seas near the waterfront, but as we approached San Juan Island, the waters became calm and great for scanning the area for surfacing whales. We reached Kellett Bluff and found orcas! It was an exciting day as today is the first time superpod has occurred this season! When we have superpod, it means that all 3 pods (J,K & L), that make up the southern resident population are in the same area. This is a event that only happens a few times throughout the season. There are approximately 89 whales in the population including a brand new calf born in K-pod in just the past few days! We cruised alongside a group of about five whales. We had J-26, commonly known as Mike, two females and a calf. The group was swimming very close together, a behaviour we see often amongst these close-knot animals. Orcas are a very tactile species, who love to touch each other and be close to their family. In fact, they are the only animal in the world where the males remain with their mothers for life! Talk about a Mama's Boy! The whales were traveling and fishing for their favourite food- Chinook salmon. We saw one of the whales spy-hop, then flop backwards into the water. Guests and crew of the Pacific Explorer really enjoyed the experience of watching orcas in their natural habitat, behaving how wild whales want to behave!
This afternoon guests were treated to a whale watching trip on the luxurious Orca Spirit II! This is our 100 foot catamaran boat that we usually only use for special events, but we decided to take it out today for our guests. We set our coarse for San Juan Island to see if we could relocate the orcas that we saw this morning. We had to make our way to the northern end of San Juan Island before finding members of K and L-pods. Today we had the honour of having superpod in the area, which is a coming together of all three pods that belong to the southern resident population. This event only happens a few times during the season, and marks a time of intense socializing and mating amongst the pods. Killer whales are highly social animals, where interaction between the pods plays a vital role in their social structure and well being. The pods do not interbreed within their own family, so mature adults need to court a member of another pod. Hopefully this massive gathering will result in new calves in 17 months! We were able to identify Raggedy (K-40) and her brother Cappuccino (K-26). These two siblings are very close, having no living immediate family members. Cappuccino is the only mature male in K-pod and Raggedy has never been know to have a calf, even though she has been a mature female since 1977. Towards the end of our trip, the whales grouped up in a line to sleep. Orcas sleep by shutting down one hemisphere of their brain, while using the awake half to control movement and breathing. It is a fascinating behaviour to watch as all the whales are close together, surfacing in unison. It was a fantastic visit with the resident orcas off the coast of Washington! Rough seas made for an interesting ride in, but the Orca Spirit II brought us to the harbour safe and sound! It was another great adventure for Orca Spirit!