Yesterday the island was buzzing with news that the resident orca pods were making their official entrance to the Salish Sea summer feeding grounds. Whale watchers aboard our M/V “Sea Lion” reported back with enthusiasm that they had witnessed a playful J pod crossing Haro Strait toward the west side of San Juan Island.
Naturally, when Captain Mike received word of a large group of orcas near Vancouver, British Columbia, we assumed it was J pod again, following their ancient and predictable salmon hunting route. Boy were we surprised to encounter the behemoth, “Chainsaw” (AKA T63), a large male Bigg’s Killer Whale south of East Point on Saturna Island, BC. Another group of approximately 15 whales were reported to be heading down the east side of Orcas Island. The resident whales of yesterday had apparently slipped out the back and neatly replaced themselves with an unusually large group of transients.
Once we realized our folly we settled into watching Chainsaw and friends. Chainsaw is estimated to be 35 years old and is so named for the saw teeth shaped notches in his dorsal fin. Between his name, size and fin, he has a “tough guy” aura. The bull hunted with two other adults and one juvenile. At one point the group was spread widely in boundary pass; however, in a short period of time we watched them make an impressively quick rendezvous near shore. There it appeared they made a kill, but much of the action took place below the surface, out of view.
On our return trip we enjoyed the clearing skies and wondered where J pod could have slipped off to.
Andrew, Naturalist, San Juan Safaris