In fact, the adrenaline was pumping so hard that after the trip no one could even sit down and write a blog! Composure has been regained however, so here’s a summary.
We headed straight for the Strait of Juan de Fuca and found members of J and K pod spread out, foraging northeast of Hein Bank (48°23.07N °12303.07W). The salmon must be good, because I have never seen these animals show off their catch like they did that day.
It all started with a calf….. him and his mother were foraging and appeared to be doing so successfully. The calf spyhopped four times within five minutes, and each time it came up with a large salmon hanging out of its mouth. Then all of sudden another whale came up on the other side of the boat spyhopping with a salmon hanging out of its mouth! The passengers went nuts, which seemed to entice the animals further as they continued to show-off.
Then we began to slowly motor away from the animals, but not without the calf coming up one last time, without a salmon, almost appearing as if he was trying to see what we were doing or where we were going.
The next group we came upon consisted of 5 whales. We cut the engine and dropped the hydrophone to see if they were communicating, but as we did they turned around and headed the opposite direction. We pulled the hydrophone back up, and just so they switched direction again, this time headed for us. They crossed our bow taking the same breaths and same dives; one of the most remarkable sights to the human eye! You could even see the bubble trails leading to their next breath above water!! Simply amazing.
We then began to head back in, but not without one last sha-bang! It was Mike (J26) a 21 year old member of Jpod being extremely surface active. He was actually, what I like to call, “rolling around” at the surface of the water, moving from an up right direction to his side raising his pectoral fin out of the water, then onto his back with his belly up partially out of the water, and then onto his other side raising his other pectoral fin out of the water. He even vocalized above water!! The coolest high pitched squeak I’ve ever heard! Actually, probably the only high pitched squeak tolerable to the human ear!
All of that and we were stunned, including the captain and myself.
May sound awesome, but even the best choice of words cannot describe the actual experience, being out on the water with these animals. So I suggest you book your trip now or start planning for next summer!
Naturalist Tara, San Juan Safaris