The fog rolled in overnight out west and so our day started with us pushing north through Bellingham Channel past the Cone Islands and into the Strait of Georgia with Canada on the horizon. Some little puppy dog faces watched us go as we passed Puffin Island and we slowed to get a good look at the masses of harbor seals hauled out. Dog mermaids. Orca bon-bons. Land sausages. Whatever you want to call them, they're pretty cute! Hauling out is an important part of their day---the waters they call home are roughly 48 degrees year round and to keep warm they spend several hours of their day thermoregulating in order to keep their core body temperatures up.
Harbor seals hauled out.
After admiring them we kept pushing north with the flood tide and it's a good thing to. I think we got on scene right in time! The same group of orcas we had encountered the day before were coming southwest in the Strait of Georgia aiming for East Point and Boiling Reef. As we got on scene they were all grouped up, but seemed to be slowly "waking up" and getting active. We saw a spyhop, numerous tail lobs (both right side up and upside down), and a couple breaches as they went.
Onyx (L87) and Lobo (K26) were swimming side by side on the outside of the group. J51 was tucked in against his mom, Eclipse (J41) or his grandmother, Shachi (J19). The rest of the J14s (including J2) and K14s were mixed up together. There was a brief split as they pushed towards East Point with Se-Yi-Chn (J45), Eclipse, Shachi, and J51 heading more due west while the rest headed just a bit southwest instead. They would all group back up together before getting to Boiling Reef though.
The oldest SRKW with one of the youngest... Granny (J2) surfacing with J51 and his mother, Eclipse (J41).
Lobo (K26) surfacing beside Onyx (L87) who is doing a bit of an aerial scan.
Someone spyhops as they head our way.
Eclipse (J41) breaching.
Matriarch Lea (K14) doing an inverted tail lob.
By that point the kid in me was already ecstatic. It's such a treat to see these whales social and active like this and it was such a change from our encounter the day before when they were serious about foraging and very spread out.
They continued aiming for East Point and Boiling Reef and we didn't even know what we were in store for until it started. Breach after cartwheel after pec slap after tail lob. It continued, with whales breaching simultaneously and one after another. It was whale popcorn! And they weren't going to stop without making the best of it either!
Breaching Suttles (J40) next to Onyx (L87).
A cartwheel that looks more like a headstand!
T'ilem I'nges (J49) breaching against the beautiful Tumbo Island and Saturna Island background.
As they worked through the current the breachfest continued and even Onyx (L87) got in on the action. This big boy is such an amazing whale. In 2005, when Onyx was just about 13 years old, his mother Olympia (L32) died. The mother-son bond is one of the strongest and males have a much higher mortality rate in the year following their mother's death if they do not have an adult female relative to swim with. In this case Onyx did---an older sister, Spirit (L22) and her two young sons, Skana (L79) and Solstice (L89). But Onyx ended up "adopting himself out" to the eldest members of K-pod, Lummi (K7) and Georgia (K11). He traveled exclusively with K-pod until the last of the two matriarchs passed away in 2010. After that he "switched" to J-pod and has since been found traveling with them full-time. He swam closely with Speiden (J8) and Granny (J2). Speiden passed away in 2013 but Onyx still closely associates with Granny and her family. He's a true survivor!
Today was the first day I was actually able to get a photo of a big male breaching and I was more than ecstatic that it was one of my adopted whales, Onyx.
Onyx (L87) breached multiple times (seen in the three photos above).
Near and far whales were breaching, seeming to enjoy their day and it was truly amazing to witness so much exuberance from these incredible creatures.
T'ilem I'nges (J49) breaching.
Kelp (K42) breaching.
An adult female breaches in front of Granny (J2).
Breaching against a Saturna Island backdrop.
All of the whales grouped up along shore with the exception of Eclipse (J41) and J51 who were further off shore. Eclipse did one huge breach as she went and then continue moseying southwest with the others following just a bit behind and tucked into shore.
What an incredible day!