Author Archive

July 8th through 14th

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Birds fill the air on the South end of the island.

With each passing month, the beauty of the islands gets a little more apparent. What a fantastic summer we are having so far. Orcas are a frequent sight, and with the beautiful backdrop of the Olympic Mountains in the distance, there’s nothing that can even compare. We had a great second week of July; tons of whale sightings, birds scattered all about the water and shore, and even a couple of sea lion sightings! Those are the days that we love on the Odyssey – wildlife on all sides and beautiful scenery.


A sea lion perches himself on the rocks, soaking up some sun. The seagulls seem less than impressed!


Seals lie on the rocks, performing one of their most important tasks of the day (no, not napping!). Seals must raise their core temperature by lying out in the sun in order to avoid hypothermia.


Various birds can be seen at the South end of the island.


An Orca surfaces along one of the prettiest backdrops we have to offer here in the San Juans – the majestic Olympic Mountains.


Orcas surface all together.


Two orcas jump through the water together.


An orca dives back down into the water.


A bald eagle checks out the view.


Water runs off the orcas’ back.


A salmon jumps out of the water, noticing that the orcas are nearby.


Beautiful Mt. Baker, one of the largest mountains in the Cascade Mountain range, and our beautiful lighthouse.

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An orca spyhops.

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Seals lie in the sun, warming up their core temperatures.

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June 17th-June 23rd

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A bald eagle sits atop a tree, keeping as close of an eye on us as we are on him!

What a spectacular week filled with all kinds of wildlife! Humpbacks, Minkes, and of course, the Orca whales, all made an appearance, giving us some beautiful photos and a lot of wonderful memories made out on the water. What an incredible summer we’re having here in the San Juan’s, and how neat that we get to share it with our guests, locals, and wildlife alike!


A minke whale breaks the calm water.


You are sure to find an abundance of birds out on the South end of the island!


Obviously ready for his close up, a seal watches the boat before diving back down under the water.


A tufted puffin begins to take off from the water. We usually only catch a glimpse of these little guys about twice a year, so we were lucky to catch him this time around!


A mother and her calf stuck to each other’s sides as we watched them.


A humpback whale dives back down into the smooth water.


We couldn’t tell if we were more excited to see the whale, or the whale was more excited to see us, but they certainly put on quite the spectacle!


A tufted puffin gets ready for take off.


Seals sprawl out on the rocks near the South end of the island.

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A perfect start to our 20th season

May 16, 2013 154Our 20th season started off with a bang. This past week has been spectacular for whale watching in the San Juan Islands.  It started off with an amazing humpback whale sighting.  We traveled northwest into Canadian waters to get to this beautiful animal.  This humpback whale put on quite a show for everybody.  Shortly after we got there, it jumped out of the water completely.  What an enormous splash it made after that breach.  It then proceeded to show us its pectoral fins, swam upside down and fluked multiple times.  After we left the humpback whale, we saw harbor porpoise by the dozens.May 4, 2013 026

We have also been seeing minke whales, these are a baleen whale that are just now returning to these waters after a winter long absence.  We had some really nice passes, allowing for great photos.  We were also able to see some Steller sea lions on whale rocks, one of my favorite animals that we have here in the San Juans.  At ten to twelve feet long and weighing almost 2000 pounds, these guys are absolutely huge.

Whale and wildlife watching can be wonderful rain or shine.Typically Friday Harbor and the San Juan Islands get about half of the rain that Seattle sees. However, we do get the clouds at times and a few of the days this past week were no exception. That didn’t dampen our spirits as we headed out to look for wildlife.  We had no whale reports when we left the dock, so we decided to go where we went the day before to look for minke whales.  We had just got to Cattle Pass, which separates Lopez Island and San Juan Island’s southern shores, when we got word from another whale watching vessel that he had found some transients orcas, not far from where we were!  We headed right there and in about 20 minutes we started seeing the dorsal fins and splashes from the killer whales.  These whales were in a great mood!  From the time that we got there until the time we left, they were breaching, tail lobbing, spy hopping and doing every other type of surface behavior that whales do.  We identified these whales as T49B and T65A groups of transients.  We stopped off at whale rocks to see the Steller sea lions and the harbor seals.  There was even a bald eagle sitting on one of the rocks.  Yet another successful day aboard the Odyssey.
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During mid-week we got a report that all members of J Pod had returned to the Salish Sea. What great news to hear these animals are back home. So on the morning of the 16th, we were all prepared to have our first encounter of the season with J pod.  There was an early report of orcas up in Georgia Strait and we all assumed that it must be J pod.  We started heading towards East Point on Saturna Island and received word that it wasn’t resident orcas, but more transients.  So, we were a little bit disappointed that we weren’t going to see J pod, but still excited to see orcas.  Then another group of orcas was found and it was a larger group.  We thought that this must be J pod, so we turned the Odyssey and headed towards that group.  While we were on route, the vessel that found the second group told us that it wasn’t J pod either, but a group of fifteen or more transients.  Oh well, here we go; it’s still orcas and a large number of them to boot!  We got out into Rosario Strait and met up with the transient group of orcas.  It was a bright sunshiny day and the whales were awesome.  We watched the T100s, which included one really big male.  There were very few boats and the weather was beautiful.  As we were about to leave, we saw another blow up ahead of the transients!  It was humpback whale!  The transient orcas circled it a couple of times then kept on going.  Being able to witness orca whales, minke whales, humpback whales, sea lions, seals, eagles, multiple birds and the views of Mt. Baker and the Olympic Mountains is why we love our jobs and these beautiful islands. It’s been a perfect week and what a spectacular way to start our 2013 season.

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These are the days we cross our fingers for!!!!! The chance to see the superpod happens only a handful of times every summer, and each time we are reminded of just how incredible these creatures are. We circumnavigated San Juan Island today, locating members of all three pods, J, K, and L. A gorgeous sunny day allowed for lots of pictures (make sure to check out our facebook page with GREAT photos of all tours!). We got the full experience of Pacific Northwest wildlife today, spotting the Steller Sea Lions as we rounded Cattle Pass, and the Mouflan sheep and Fallow deer on Spieden Island.

The highlight of the tour was spotting J49 and the newest orca calf of J pod, born August 6th! The orcas were in a brilliantly playful mood, breaching, spy hopping, and tail slapping. It was definitely a tour to remember.

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Time with the transients!

Though a bit overcast out today, we had another fantastic day on the water with the transient orcas, including the large male T19b. Our course took us north and eventually towards Henry Island. Along the way we spotted a bald eagle on Battleship Island, as well as saw the ever novel Mouflan sheep of Speiden Island. A fun day of sightings and perfect Pacific Northwest weather!

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Js & Ks in a playful mood!

Another great day on the water as we reach the tail end of August. Our course took us south today through Cattle Pass and on towards False Bay. We met up with members of J and K pods, in a group of about 6-8 orcas as we first arrived. Polaris (J28) kept us entertained with several spy hops along with Star (J44), while other members were breaching, cartwheeling, and tail slapping all around us. We got some amazing pictures! (Be sure to check out our “August 2012” facebook album that was just updated today). As we made the return trip home we stopped at Whale Rocks and had some excellent Steller Sea Lion sightings as well as harbor seals. A great day! Cannot wait to get back out on the water tomorrow.

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Jam packed wildlife day!

The August sunshine is amazing and we couldn’t have asked for a more jam packed wildlife day on the water today! As we headed north in San Juan Channel towards Spieden Channel and on to Haro Strait, the water was clear and the decks full. The novelty that are the Mouflan Sheep of Spieden Island was our first sighting of the day, along with some European fallow deer that call the island home as well.

As we got on the scene, J-pod was fairly spread out, but not for long. A big trip for us today, and J-pod didn’t let us down! We met up with the orcas, whose playful behavior was exceptional and breathtaking. J34, J22, and J32 kept us entertained with some high speed porpoising, while other members kept us alight with awe as we watched breaches, spyhops, and more. We even saw Granny, J2, who is 101 years old this year! On the way back in we spotted several bald eagles and harbor porpoise.

Another great day on the water!

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Js & Ks off Eagle Point

Despite some unusual July rainfall, we had a wonderful wildlife trip! On our way south toward Cattle Pass and on to Eagle Point we sighted a handful of Minke whales near Salmon Bank. As we reached the orcas, members of J and K pods were exceptionally social and playful, making for some excellent memories and photos. We dropped the hydrophone and listened to the vocalizations, a real highlight of the trip, and a reminder of how amazing these creatures are. After spending a great afternoon with the orcas we headed back towards Friday Harbor and spotted a steller sea lion on Whale Rocks, along with a great bald eagle and lots of those spotted harbor seals!

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L-pod sightings!

We had an amazing month of sightings in June, and July is off to a great start! Despite some grey skies and light rain, we left port at 1:30pm heading south around Cattle Point. We spent the afternoon with the only members of Lpod that have been in the area recently, L-53, L-72, L-95 and L-105. The largest of the three resident pods, it was wonderful to see some of the L members back in the area. On our way back in to the harbor a bald eagle flew directly over the boat, an amazing sight!

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Welcome July!

Seal eating salmon, San Juan Islands

Finally some summer weather! The first day of July and the Odyssey left port underneath beautiful blue sunny skies. The day’s highlights included a cartwheel by J-8 (Spieden) while we traveled north along South Pender Island, and several harbor porpoise sightings throughout the trip. We cannot wait to see what this month brings!

Pod of whales passing Speiden Island, San Juan Islands

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Transients and a Minke

With the resident orcas traveling quickly and at quite a distance, we were happy to hear that there was a pod of transient orcas close to home! We headed south through San Juan Channel to Cattle Pass, enjoying the overcast but warm afternoon. We first met up with the T75 just north of Cattle Pass, grouped tightly in a resting pattern. As they reached the powerful current of the pass they woke and powered through as we watched and followed them through. As we reached Long Island we spotted a minke whale and had an incredible sighting as it surfaced three times very close to the Odyssey! After spending some quality time with both the minke and the transients, snapping photos of tail slaps and half cartwheels, we made it back to port with smiles on our faces and some amazing wildlife stories. A fantastic trip!

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J pod and K pod members!

Another beautiful day towards the south end of the island. We left the harbor and headed south through San Juan Channel down to Cattle Pass, sighting all of J-pod and four K-pod members near False Bay. They were a very playful bunch! Make sure to check out some of our new photos on our facebo0k page. Breaching, tail lobs, and spyhopping! The water was wonderfully calm and the sunshine finally decided to come back to the San Juans. Good signs for another fantastic week to come!

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