Sunshine and zodiac tours watching transient Orcas - what a perfect start to this Sunday!
October 8, 2011
A small group of guests joined us on our afternoon adventure today, and they were lucky to be on board! Before we even left the harbour, 3 California Sea Lions were swimming in the water! Normally we have to travel 7 miles to Race Rocks before we get to see sea lions. These fury critters reach 1500 pounds and make lots of noise day and night with their characteristic barking. After a quick viewing of the sea lions, we hooked a left turn out of the harbour and headed towards San Juan Island, our favourite part of Washington! We were within 2 miles of the island's western shores, when we spotted 2 humpbacks! Another surprising find, as we rarely see humpbacks this far east. The pair were a mother and her growing calf, enjoying some relaxing time and last minute feeding before continuing on their journey to Hawaii. Humpbacks are smart, they go spend time off BC and Alaska during our summer to feed, then they head to Hawaii for our winters to socialize, mate and give birth. I wish I could take the winters off to go to Hawaii! Continuing on our lucky streak with mammal sightings, a group of Dall's Porpoises surrounded the boat, leaping out of the water! They looked to be chasing small fish as they hopped and lunged around. Dall's Porpoises are not shy of boats, often engaging in bow riding much like dolphins do. We were amazed to have such awesome wildlife all around us!
The humpbacks and Dall's Porpoises were fascinating, but with the luck we were having, we decided to move closer to San Juan Island and see if something else awaited us. Members of the Southern Resident Killer Whale population were traveling and fishing just south of Lime Kiln Park, making their way north. After only a few minutes with the orcas, we were able to identify 2 of the whales. J-30 or Riptide is a male born in 1995, so he is getting a tall dorsal fin. He is the son of Samish (J-14), and the older brother of Hy'Shqa (J-37), Suttles (J-40) and Se-Yi-Chn (J-45). Swimming near Riptide was Spieden or J-8. Spieden is one of the oldest orcas in the population, turning 78 this season! Spieden is easier to identify by her breathing that her saddlepatch and dorsal fin. She makes a wheezing sound as she sucks air into her lungs when she surfaces. We could definitely hear her today! A nick at the base of her dorsal fin confirmed that it was Spieden with us. Later we saw a large group of females and all their young calves. We were treated to seeing the youngest calf in the population, K-44 who was born in July, with his Mom Deadhead (K-27). She was hanging out with Princess Angeline (J-17), Polaris (J-28) and Tahlequah (J-35). Princess Angeline is the mother of Polaris, Tahlequah, and Moby. Polaris and Tahlequah both had calves within a few months of each other, Star and Notch respectively. Even more interesting is that Princess Angeline also had Moby in the same few months as her daughters’ calves! So when the family is together, there is lots of activity. And the hydrophone revealed how chatty these whales can be! It was a fantastic trip full of excitement and many marine mammals!