Watching the sun set with our guests from the Star Princess (Princess Cruises). http://t.co/HOSPXt2VCT
July 11, 2011
It was a beautiful afternoon as we headed to Haro Strait on the Pacific Explorer. With the return of L-pod yesterday, there would likely be an abundance of whales. Little did I know it would be my most amazing trip of the season. We arrived offshore of San Juan Island between False Bay and Eagle Point when we saw our first whales. In the calm seas, we could spot the blows and dorsal fins of orcas all around us. Our first mate Rodrigo dropped the hydrophone and we were immersed in the whistles, screaches, chirps and echolocation of the orcas. With the current running, we watched orcas foraging and even had an amazing encounter with K14 (Lea) as she chased a salmon. Our captain witnessed a salmon being tossed! Hopefully this is a sign that salmon are plentiful this year. To the south of us, we watched a large group of L-pod whales, including the iconic dorsal fin of Mega (L41) grouped up and travelling in a westerly direction. With the snowcapped Olympic Mountain range as a backdrop, it was a wonderful viewing experience. We saw spyhops, tail slaps and even a few breaches. It was truly an incredible trip and a highlight of the season thus far.
A lot can change in the two hours we often have between the time we left the whales in one trip and the time we hope to encounter them during our next trip. Where would the whales be? What would they be doing? Would they still be actively foraging? We headed to Haro Strait, confident that we would find the orcas and eager to see them again. The seas had started to build somewhat, making for an adventurous ride. We had a wonderful group of guests aboard from Korea, the United States, Australia and Canada and we were eager to show them some orcas. The last report was that the whales were headed in the direction of Hein Bank. As we crossed Haro Strait, we scanned the choppy seas and were fortunate to spot some blows about a half-mile to the south of us. Slowly we made our way towards the whales to find them resting, but travelling in a steady southwestern direction. Resting is an amazing behaviour to witness, as we encountered L-pod travelling west in 2 large groups, surfacing and diving in near unison. We watched several young calves travelling with their moms and noted the huge dorsal fins of Mega (L41) and Crewser (L92). It was my first time seeing Mega this year. He is now the oldest male in the southern resident community at 35 years of age. We were thrilled to see a fantastic spyhop! Although the seas were somewhat choppy, it enhanced the viewing as the whales swam hard against the tide, showing us their distinctive countershading colour pattern. With well over 20 resting orcas, it was a fantastic way to end the day.