Archive for September, 2011

Friday September 30

Friday, September 30th, 2011

The last two days could have gone either way.  The morning whale reports had residents near Hein Bank, possibly heading out to the Pacific.  But like yesterday, the animals turned around and made their way back towards San Juan Island.  We found some members of K pod swimming steadily in Haro Strait as the clouds finally cleared.  We hung out with a few different groups of 4-5 whales, but could see animals spread out in every direction!

On the way home we stopped near Whale Rocks and showed our passengers the large Steller Sea Lions that seemed to have doubled in numbers over the last few days!  To top it off we also encountered Dall’s Porpoise and some really playful Harbor Porpoise in San Juan Channel!


Finishing Up Strong!

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

We only have a few more trips left in our season up here, but the whales don’t know that.  Today we found members of our resident pods K and L, almost 50 whales, spread out in Haro Strait heading up to Turn Point.  We were able to identify K20 (possibly with a new calf?  yet to be confirmed), L87, L41, L88, and  K40.  We got to see a wide range of behaviors and all our passengers were very excited.

On the way home we stopped along Spieden and saw many harbor seals on the rocks, as well as four-legged mammals grazing on the hillside including some bucks and a few rams.  The icing on the cake was the Bald Eagle standing on the shore line with a salmon in its talons, and a handful of Steller Sea Lions lazing in the water at Green Point.



nice weather, nice whales

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

After 2 days of howling wind and sporadic downpours it seemed as though mother nature deicded to give us a break.  It was a beautiful day.  There was sun and there were whales.  We even saw a Minke  surface as we were watching Steller’s Sea Lions at the south end of Cattle Pass.

When we got to the residents the whales were spread out on the south/ west side of the island.  They looked to be moving a little bit offshore but were generally milling when we arrived.  The first whale we encountered was L21 traveling (or hunting) with a female and juvenile male.  There were whales everywhere but toward the end of the trip we ended up with a group that included L20 and a very small, very orange calf.  Perhaps a new K baby!  He (or she) was tail slapping, mini spyhopping, and laying on his (or her) back for a while with tiny pectoral fins up in the air like little ping pong paddles.  Very exciting.  What a day.

Laura, Naturalist

Clear and Humid?

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

Today was arguably one of the warmest, nicest days of the season.  We were lucky enough to encounter a single Minke up north in Boundary Pass.  The water was like glass, and it’s not often that we find Minkes up that way.  As we came around Turn Point we also came across a pretty elusive group of Dall’s Porpoise.  They showed enough of themselves for our passengers to get a good look, but weren’t too interested in hanging out otherwise.

On the way home we also found a few Bald Eagles, plenty of Harbor seals (one was eating a big salmon), and numerous four-legged friends grazing on Spieden!



Sassy juveniles

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

Another fabulous day.

Our first stop was for a few Harbor Seals hauled out on the rocks.  Our second stop was for the ever elusive Harbor Porpoise.  It was one of the few times that I have seen a large number of them, too preoccupied while hunting, to care that we were watching.  Most of the time all we see is a little black blip at the surface and have to spend the next several minutes trying to convince passengers that the blip was actually a porpoise.  Today everyone got to see one up close.  Capt. Mike shut down and we sat in the calmest water imaginable watching no less than 10 porpoise cruising around us.  When we finally left them we continued on south toward Cattle Point.  We stopped for a couple of gregarious Steller’s Seal Lions and then ventured out into the straight.  L Pod was pretty much at South Beach when we first came upon them.  They were spread out over a tremendous area.  Once again the calm water made for easy identification of the saddle patch.

Among the first whales we saw were L2, L79, L72, and later L41 (Mega-my favorite).

We also had an amazing encounter with two juvenile whales who shot up, out of nowhere, in front of the boat, while we were shut down and proceeded to swim laps around us while we watched in amazement.  The water was calm and clear and we could see the white flash from their bellies as they scooted in past us in a blur and then darted out to regroup before doing it again.  In my whole summer out here I have not seen behavior like that from orca whales until today.  Orcas may pop up near a boat and pass by at close proximity, but it is always with an air of dignity, as though they are on a mission and could care less about boat or the people on it.  They always keep their composure and when they do let loose a little it is typically in the company of other orcas with boats watching from afar.  Today was different.  There was no breaching or rolling upside-down.  No tail slapping or lollygagging at the surface.  These two little guys were behaving, totally and completely, like a couple of hooligans.  It was awesome.  Even Capt Mike had to leave the wheelhouse and squeeze up to the railing to get a better view.  It was one of those exceptional moments that makes you want to do a fist pump and yell, “Yessss!”

Laura, Naturalist


From An Up and Coming Young Marine Naturalist On Our Tour September 20, 2011

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011
Resident Orca Whale by Guest David Paris September 20, 2011

Resident Orca Whale by Guest David Paris September 20, 2011


Ode to the Orca

In a colossal embrace matter melted with music

Orgasms of fantasy and light.
It was so that the breath of the goddess took form,
Her chants crystallized in an ocean with twilights instead of waves,
Mask of the unknown,
Uterus of the first spawned orca.

The aeons pre-universe elapsed nurturing her gestation

and it was only when she was fully grown that time could born
for the sun is just a mirage of her belly,
the night, the tattoo of her skin embracing the infinite.

Oh! Priestess of life!

mother and channel of sublime
the light in the blue finds its path by following your chant
hence you are the luminous sentinel and the maker of the abyss
forger of darkness at your own image and likeness.

Unintelligible creature, terror is the shadow that your movement sows!

for in those with whom you share the ocean destiny exists and it is to fear you,
preys of knowing themselves your victims by antonomasia;
at their birth they learn from the waters that you mean death and angelical paroxysm.

The tale at you pupil is the law of blood and watch

written with the ink of lightning
over magma and submarine mountains.
Those of us who have suffered enough sacrilege,
dream with the return of the law that you embody and prophetize.

Hailed be him who finds himself at the face of the Orca,

for he could say that he has known the Truth!

“Quisiera yo que la majestad humana fuera sólo la encarnación del reflejo de la tuya. Pido mucho y este sincero deseo es, para ti, glorioso. Tu grandeza moral, imagen del infinito, es inmensa como la reflexión del filósofo, como el amor de la mujer, como la belleza divina del pájaro, como las meditaciones del poeta. Eres más hermoso que la noche. Responde, océano, ¿quieres ser mi hermano?”

Conde de Lautréamont



I wish that the human majesty would be only the incarnation of the reflection of yours. I ask much and this sincere wish is, to you, glorious. Your moral greatness, image of the infinite, is immense as the thoughts of the philosopher, as the love of women, as the divine beauty of the bird, as the meditations of the poet. You are more beautiful than the night.
Answer, ocean, would you be my brother?


sensory overload

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

I feel like we have had a lot of great trips this summer and have been luck so far in September with a fairly high percentage of whale sightings.  Of all the trips we have had since we started in April there are a handful that stick out vividly in my memory as exceptional.  Today might have trumped them all.

The one nice thing about this cloudy weather is that it is glassy, flat, and the flat light makes for easy spotting. We left the harbor today and headed north.  Half way up the San Juan Channel we encountered  Dall”s Porpoise.  They were in a good mood and stayed nearby, bow riding and surfing our wake for several minutes.  Out in front of us a little seal popped up with a fat salmon in his mouth.  As we were leaving the Dall’s we saw what looked to be at first a large Stellar’s Sea Lion, then as we shifted our vantage point resembled a piece of driftwood, but eventually moved to reveal that it was, in fact, a large male ELEPHANT SEAL!  What?  Here?  Yes.  The large, protruding nose was a dead giveaway.  He was rather shy and slipped below the surface, not to be seen by us again.

We headed out the Speiden channel into Haro Straight.  As soon as we got into Haro we could see blows, and dorsal fins, and more dorsal fins.  It was so flat that we could see for miles and we could tell that there were whales in every direction for miles.  We were the only boat with the J pod trailers.  We shut down and watched a small group composed of J16, J26, and J42 and 36.  They looked to be just traveling.  There were no long dives and their pace was slow and steady.  We could hear each and every breath from whales near and far away from us. A single female surfaced off our other side and we watched her glide gracefully past us.  There were so many whales in all directions that we dropped our hydrophone to take a listen.  It was amazing.  It was as if we had stepped into the middle of a crowded party.  It was so calm that we could even hear echolocation clicks.  While we were sitting, watching, and listening to the orcas something big exploded to the surface about a quarter of a mile away from us.  It was like watching a submarine shooting to the surface.  It happened two more times.  In that time I was able to gather my wits and identify the large, torpedo-like object as a breaching Minke Whale.  I have never seen a Minke breach before.  It was awesome!

On our way back in we saw Harbor Seals, land mammals on Speiden Island and another Dall’s Porpoise that surfaced off our bow with a loud exhalation that made me jump in surprise.

You know it is a good day when your passengers just giggle the whole time.  You know it is a really good day when your captain calls his friends to tell them he just saw a breaching Minke and your naturalist needs to take a time out because she is in total sensory overload.  Today was that day.  Amazing.

Laura, Naturalist

Gorgeous, Gorgeous….

Monday, September 19th, 2011

I thought yesterday was one of the calmest days we have seen this season, but I was wrong.  It was today.  We found some Orcas outside of Cattle Pass towards Hein Bank.  The first animal we got a good look at was L41.  He was generally traveling South, but not with any speed.  So we had some fun times hanging out with him.

After a little bit we headed farther north and came across a lot more of L41′s family.  They seemed to be mostly milling and resting, but after about 10 minutes of swimming in circles one of them breached unexpectedly.  That seemed to motivate the rest of the group to start tail slapping and spy hopping.  To end the encounter one of the smaller animals had a nice breach right in our passengers line of sight.

On the way home we stopped for the Steller’s around Whale Rocks, and just as we were entering the harbor we were able to shut down the engines and let a nice pod of Harbor Porpoise swim right past us!


Naturalist – San Juan Safaris

Another awesome day!

Friday, September 16th, 2011

Despite the chilly weather and gray skies today was another amazing day.  Whales were down south of Salmon Bank.  On our journey south we saw the usual (yet always exciting) seals, sea lions and harbor porpoise.  Once we were out in the straight we had an unexpected encounter with 2 little minke whales (and 2 more in the distance).  After the wonderful surprise Minke sighting we pressed on even farther south.  The whales were headed south and west.  The first two residents we came upon were L88 and L26.  They were milling in one spot for several minutes, rolling around each other with some interesting behavior.  After a while they straightened up and followed the rest of the pod west.  We weren’t sure what exactly the whales were doing.  Some of them seemed to be traveling at a good clip.  Some of them were milling in all directions.  Finally we saw several good size salmon leap out of the water; a good indication that hunting was indeed happening.  Right before we turned to head back home a little whale surfaced just in front of us.  We got a great look at the saddle and identified the little guy as K34, a juvenile (well, almost teenage) male.

It was a brisk day on the water, but worth it to be out with orcas and minkes!

Oh, a word to the wise, if you are reading this and will be coming out with us….bundle up!  The weather has changed.  You can never have enough layers and being prepared and warm will ensure that you get the most out of your wildlife adventure!  The good news is, the whales don’t care if it is a bit chilly.  They are always prepared.  See you soon!
Laura, naturalist

Don’t let the rain fool you…

Thursday, September 15th, 2011

Today started off gray and rainy.  We got everyone suited up in rain jackets and blankets as we started down San Juan Channel.  We definitely took some spray over the side and the rain was getting everyone sitting up on the bow.  But we had a hardy group of people on board that were ready for the adventure.

We stopped just outside of Friday Harbor to check out quite a few Harbor Seals hauled out on the rocks and got an added bonus of a Bald Eagle perched in the middle of everything.  As we continued south we came across Steller Sea Lions lazing in the rain on whale rocks.  Definitely the most I have seen this fall all together in once place.  Very impressive.

As we headed up island towards the area where the resident Orca had been seen one of our passengers spotted a blow a little off shore.  Sure enough he had found some members of L pod.  We were the only boat in the area and our passengers enjoyed viewing the whales all by ourselves for a while.  We had ‘Mega’ and some of his family with us at first.  We then realized there was something else in the water with the Orca.  A group of Dall’s porpoise had come on to the scene and some of the members of L pod seemed to be traveling with them.  Something I have never seen before!

On our way home we had a last encounter with ‘Racer’, one of the L pod females.  She has a very distinctive saddle patch and numerous passengers got great photos.  By the time we made it home the skies had cleared a bit and the sun was shining on us in the harbor.


Naturalist San Juan Safaris