Our route to the whales today took us inner island before we turned down Upright Channel and exited into the straits through Cattle Pass. As we got on scene with the whales near Eagle Cove we could see one whale breaching repeatedly in the distance. It was Tsuchi (J31). She was with her older brother, Blackberry (J27), and she launched high into the air at least ten times. Even from a distance it was incredible to watch.
Tsuchi (J31) breaching.
Just to the north were more whales, including the J17s. Polaris (J28), Star (J46), Tahlequah (J35), and Notch (J47) were further in shore swimming close together as they moved up island. With them were the J22s---so we had Jpod Group B (minus the J16s) swimming together. With all of the splits this summer it was nice to see at least a semblance of "normality".
As we continued north more Jpod whales showed up. The J14s surfaced alongside the J17s in shore and on several surfacings T'ilem I'nges (J49) and Notch were seen swimming together. Suttles (J40) and her sister, Hy'shqa (J37) were also swimming side by side.
But those weren't the only whales in the area. A large group of whales was heading down island and as we watched the two groups converged in shore and all turned south together, rising in unison. Seeing over forty whales rising together is something incredible to see. As whales rose and then dove I was able to see members of Kpod and the "missing" members of Jpod. In fact the only three whales I wasn't able to confirm in my photos (but who could have been there regardless) were the K16s, Opus (K16) and Sonata (K35), and Cappuccino (K21). The whales headed south before turning back to the north.
Members of Kpod coming down island---including Skagit (K13) and her son, Scoter (K25).
The two pods met and grouped up together in resting mode, heading down island.
By the time we had left the dock for the evening trip the whales had pushed out west and so we did the same. At Salmon Bank we found our first whale, but it was no orca! A minke whale rose in the sparkling water, giving us several good views as it fed on bait fish grouped up over the shallow shelf.
Minke Whale at Salmon Bank.
Several miles off shore we found our second whales of the days, and these were orcas! Members of Kpod to be precise. The K14s were the first whales we saw and the matriline was swimming together closely, rising side by side. Yoda (K36) and Kelp (K42) were sandwiched between mom, Lea (K14), and older brother, Lobo (K26). But little Kelp was feeling pretty playful and did a couple of lazy breaches as they went.
The K14s headed west.
Continuing our push west we found three whales foraging together out by Hein Bank. Blackberry (J27) was seriously foraging while his younger brother, Mako (J39) was rough housing with Cali (K34). The two younger guys surfaced together in unison and were splashing and rolling around. It was interesting to see Cali so far ahead of his family socializing with another young male. During several encounters with him this summer I've noticed that he's been off doing his own thing while his family swam separately (though always in the same general area). It makes me wonder if he's going through an "independent teenager" phase. Meanwhile nearby Blackberry caught a salmon and devoured his dinner.
Blackberry (J27) with dinner.
Mako (J39) and Cali (K34).
With those three having slowed considerably it gave the other whales time to play catch up and pretty soon we were joined by other members of Jpod, the J14s and J19s, who had met up with the K14s since we left them. The J19s led the way and little J51 popped up right in line with where my camera was pointed letting me snap what might be the best photo I have of him yet. He was tucked in his mother's slipstream and along with grandma Shachi (J19) the three dove under our boat and continue west.
J51 popping up next to his mom.
Right behind them were the J14s (J2 and L87 were notably absent) and the K14s all swimming together. The younger kids were grouped up and being playful. Se-Yi-Chn (J45) spyhopped beside his nephew, T'ilem I'nges (J49) and Kelp. The seas had picked up a little and the swell seemed to be enticing the whales to raise their heads high as they surfaced, though Hy'shqa (J37) at least seemed to be looking around as she lifted her head even higher on several surfacings.
Se-Yi'-Chn (J45) spyhopping next to T'ilem I'nges (J49) and Kelp (K42).
Hy'shqa (J37) does an aerial scan.
Samish (J14) raising her head against the swell as she surfaces.
They followed the J19s but they weren't the last in the line-up. The K13s (minus Cali who was still off with Mako) followed close behind. They were grouped up together and gave us some great looks as they swam parallel to us. In the evening light they were exhaling rainbows. It was pretty magical. They were still heading west when we left them but about an hour later word came in that they had once again turned and were heading back for San Juan Island.
Scoter (K25) with a rainblow.