Sunshine and zodiac tours watching transient Orcas - what a perfect start to this Sunday!
September 14, 2011
We headed out on a beautiful afternoon on the Strait of Juan de Fuca. We received reports that there were resident killer whales off the western shores of San Juan Island, WA. We arrived on scene and could see black dorsal fins rising above the surface in all directions. The first whale to pass by our boat is very special. She is the oldest known orca in the world, and is the matriarch leader of J-pod. Her name is Granny or J-2 and she turned one hundred years old this season! Granny is easily identified by her solid white saddlepatch and half-moon nick out of the middle of the back edge of her dorsal fin. Among the other whales that we saw, there was Spieden or J-8. She is also one of the oldest whales of the Southern Resident population. Spieden is famous because she wheezes when she takes a breath after a long dive. Born in 1933, she has been around long before research started on these whales. Back in the 1970's, researchers would camp along the beaches when they were out studying the whales. At night, they could hear Spieden's wheezing, and know that J-pod was out in the water in the dark. The whales were spending their time searching for food. Orcas need 200-300 pounds of salmon a day to sustain their energy demanding lifestyles. As fall has come, the salmon runs begin to slow, and the whales need to spend more time searching for fish. Soon they will head out to offshore areas to feed on the salmon that spend the winters growing and gaining weight, before they are old enough spawn in the fresh water rivers themselves. It was a wonderful afternoon spent with our favourite black and white mammals of the sea.