Sunshine and zodiac tours watching transient Orcas - what a perfect start to this Sunday!
August 15, 2011
Today our covered boat, the Pacific Explorer, had both sunny morning and afternoon trips out to the west coast of San Juan Island. The skies were clear, the water calm, and the Orcas were abundant. We found ourselves in the midst of the southern resident L-pod with other members from the J-pod and K-pod mingling among them. We immediately identified Crewser (L92) by his distinctive curved dorsal fin and assumed the accompanying females were his aunt Ballena (L90) and grandmother Baba (L26). As the whales paraded by in their matriarchal family groups we spied the L22 family with Spirit (L22), mother to both Skana (L79) and Solstice (L89), as well as uncle Mystery (L85). Racer (L72) was easily identified by her unique pencil-like black stripe in her saddle patch, as was Blackberry (J27) by his large dorsal and crisp saddle patch swirl. The whales were in a fabulous mood showing off with tail slaps and waving fins. We were even able to count 7 breaches in the time we were watching them! Our return took us past Trial Island Lighthouse along the southern stretch of Vancouver Island, the lighthouse being one of the few remaining manned lighthouses on our coast. There we spotted Harbour Seals basking in the sunshine, their black eyes watching us as we snapped some photos of them. It was a beautiful day out in the Juan de Fuca Strait with plenty of wildlife and excellent opportunity for viewing our coast and the Gulf Islands.
Luckily for us the sun was still out as we made our way past Ogden Point and into the strait of Juan de Fuca this evening. We met up with a subgroup of the L-pod just off Trial Island and kept pace with them all the way to Middle Bank between the southern point of Discovery Island and the west coast of San Juan Island. The subgroup turned out to be two brothers: Gaia (L78) and Wavewalker (L88), and likely their mother Grace (L2), in addition to several other females and a young calf. The group were traveling in an easy manner until we made it to Seabird Point on Discovery Island where they started to pick up some speed. They had heard the calls of their relatives father south/east and were excited to meet up with them. They took off and we raced them down towards Hein Bank where the rest of the L-pod (whom we had identified during the morning and afternoon trips) were making their way west. The Orcas played and splashed in the glowing evening sunlight and could be spotted in all directions. Finally it was time to head for home; however, the whales were not quite finished. They breached twice and slapped tails as if to say "It was nice seeing you guys!" before cruising off to the south west. Our final stretch took us once again to Trial Island where some Harbour Seals soaked in the last few rays of warmth. At this time most passengers decided to hunker in the cabin for a hot chocolate, but more likely to avoid the brisk evening breeze. All in all in was another successful trip with delightful passengers and our favourite black and white Cetaceans.