Archive for May, 2011

Amazing T18 Orcas and Steller sighting!

Today on the “Odyssey” we witnessed a truly amazing act of nature. North of San Juan Island between Patos Island and Eastpoint (Saturna Island, Canada), our wildlife cruise was in the right spot at exactly the right time. Five of the T18 group (transient orcas) were in an amazing display of predator vs. prey with an estimated 2000lb. steller sea lion. As our vessel watched, nearly 45 minutes of circling, diving, and eventually a sheer battle of force played out. We are extremely lucky to witness a moment that many only see on National Geographic and the Discovery Channel. Our two certified naturalists were able to explain the moment to passengers as well as snap photos of the event. For all of us, Captain included, it was a day on the water that rivals many.

Below are photos documenting the many moments that captivated all of us. It reminds us of the power behind these magnificent animals, and makes us truly thankful for the opportunity to watch them in their natural home.

Another wonderful day on the water, with many more to come…

-Captain Pete

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San Juan Wildlife

Wildlife is part of our everyday life here in the San Juan Islands and Salish Sea. Today a Bald Eagle flew right over our group as we were preparing to board the Odyssey. Anemones, jellies, shrimp, and crabs are often visible right in the marina.
The delight of the guests seeing this ecosystem and wildlife, many for the first time, is inspiring! We headed out into the Strait of Juan de Fuca, toward the south end of Lopez Island, Many Harbor Seals and male Stellar Sea Lions were hauled on Whale Rocks.

There were reports of Orcas heading south down Rosario Channel, against a strong, 10+ foot, flooding tide. J-Pod families were very spread out and many turned back north. The whales were swimming hundreds of feet from each other, on long dives, coming up to breath. Was it energy saving to stay under the surface while they were swimming against that strong current? As fellow Naturalist Heather said; were they staying under longer to communicate about the hunt for salmon, over that long distance the pod was spread apart? We were happy to watch J-26, J-31, and J-39. A nice day on the water.

Caroline Armon, Naturalist, San Juan Excursions

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Rain or Shine….the whales and wildlife are here.

Sunday May 15th, 2011

Liquid sunshine (rain:) couldn’t dampen our spirits today! We got word that orcas were spotted down by Smith Island in the Strait of Juan de Fuca when we left the dock today. Captain Pete headed south and thankfully the orcas kept coming North, we met near False Bay! We were excited to see it was J Pod! We travelled along with Princess Angeline
(J17) and her family, daughters:Polaris (J28), Tahlequah (J35) and new son born 2009: Moby (J44), along with new grandbaby Star (J46) born 2009 to Polaris! Quite the family portrait as they would all surface together. We also got a good look at Cookie, (J38) so his mom was probably not too far off, Oreo (J22). We had about 25 J pods in the area, but well spread out on the West side of San Juan Island in Haro Strait as we left the whales today. We also enjoyed some Stellar Sea Lions hauling out on Whale Rocks near Cattle Pass upon our return to Friday Harbor. Just another beautiful day, liquid sunshine and all!

Debbi Fincher

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Spring has finally arrived in the San Juan Islands

65 and sunny – I think spring has finally arrived here in the San Juans!

In San Juan Channel we saw about half a dozen harbor seals hauled out, basking in the sun, as well as two bald eagles perched on the treetops along the shoreline of Lopez Island. We spent some time around the south end of San Juan and Lopez watching the feeding frenzy of gulls, cormorants, auklets and murres, wondering what kind of ‘bait ball’ of fish was just below the surface. We then traveled to Long Island and checked out a massive eagle’s nest, and saw several more bald eagles, this time all juveniles. The highlight of the trip was seeing the gigantic Steller sea lions hauled out on Whale Rocks. There must have been about 20 or so all sprawled out, growling whenever a neighbor got too close. Amongst the crowd of giants, two stood out; one that had been branded by researchers, and another with markings along its body, likely from a run in with a propeller. The ID number of the branded sea lion has been reported to the researchers so that they can track its movement. After hanging out with the Steller’s we headed back up San Juan Channel and passed by a harbor porpoise, which made for a nice end to a beautiful day!

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Awesome J-Pod!!!

May 10, 2011

Starting out north, on a nice, calm, sunny afternoon, no whale reports. Then, then! a rumor of Orcas in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, heading in east! So we turned around, headed south and west, and started seeing killer whale fins off of False Bay and San Juan Island, swimming against an ebbing tide.

We noticed a female staying in the same place at the surface for about a half hour, and the 5 family groups spread out. They started to move and gather closer together, actively spy hopping, turning on their backs, tail fluke and pectoral fin slapping the water surface, and a juvenile breached! They slowed down their swimming, made circles and direction changes. We put a hydrophone in the water and heard non stop vocalizations!

As we watched all the active behavior, we noticed a very small calf and wonder if a birth had taken place recently? My guess for the mom is J-31 Tsuchi. We also ID’d J-2 Granny, the big boys- J-27 Blackberry, J-26 Mike, J-30 Riptide, and J-28 Polaris and their families. J-Pod seemed relaxed and hopefully found salmon!

Caroline Armon, Naturalist, San Juan Excursions

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Sunday May 8th 2011 Happy Mother’s Day!

We had a wonderful day onboard the Odyssey today with families from all around the US celebrating Mother’s Day. We were treated to a special encounter when 2 humpback whales were feeding in the San Juans on their way north to Alaska. It appeared to be a mom and offspring, judging by the size of the larger humpback and how closely the two traveled, almost touching one another as they surfaced. A magical moment for sure when their flukes would rise out of the water and we could see underneath their flukes! Did you know that these whales are identified by researchers from their unique shapes and color patterns they have on their flukes? We took pictures today, so maybe we’ll be able to find out more about these whales. There is a website with a catalog of humpbacks that one can try to match their photos with. These whales travel from Maui to Alaska!
Our other wildlife experiences were as magnificent as our whale encounter in their own way… bald eagles, stellar sea lions, harbor seals and of course, the exotic game animals that are on Spieden Island. We enjoyed sharing this day with all the mother’s of the earth! Debbi Fincher, Naturalist

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