“T” Soup Again! More marine mammal eating orcas north of Sucia and Matia islands!

11AM Anacortes Island Explorer 3

Captain Michael and Captain Scott took us to the north on our trip today. We spotted several harbor porpoise swimming in the water in the current lines. We found several harbor seals hauled out on Vendovi Island and Viti Rocks. Also on Viti Rocks, a mature bald eagle was perched on a sign. We enjoyed the beautiful coastline of Lummi Island as we continued northward. We crossed Rosario Strait and made our way to the north side of Sucia Island and spotted one Steller sea lion and several harbor seals hauled out on Clements Reef and a few sea lions in the water! It didn’t take long before we were on scene with several orcas! Two different separate groups, representing multiple family groups: T36B, T36B1, 36A1, T36A2, TT124, T90, T90B, T90C, T124D, T124D1 (the newest baby) and T124E. We watched them for quite sometime, swimming in different directions, passing by all of the harbor seals on the reef and the sea lions were all in the water, it looked like they were trying to use strength in numbers to fend off what could have a hunting attempt from the orcas! At one point, one of the groups of orcas, surfaced from their deeper dive right next to the boat, much to the delight of our customers (and crew alike)! It was amazing! We had a couple of tail lobs and even a spyhop! The whales continued toward Lummi Island, but then they turned to the north when it was time to depart. It was awesome that they took us in the direction of home for so long! We went through Peapod Rocks and spotted more harbor seals and we even got to enjoy the sunshine as we cruised through the Cone Islands as we headed home!

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Whales all around!!!!

We left Port Angeles marine today just after a light shower had come through. On our way out we could see the Olympic mountains being pumbled by rain, so we wasted not time getting up to speed. When we round the end of Ediz hook we came across a large group of harbor seals taking advantage of the shallow sandy beach. We continued north after that where we picked up a large group of Kppd whales. The K13’s were especially social with our boat today not only breaching but lots of tale slapping as well. We left them to their lunches and continued back down south. Along the way we encountered a couple minke whales who were destroying a couple bait balls!!!! We got our fill of good looks and headed back to the harbor. It was definitely a great day to be out on the water enjoying every minute of the day in sunshine and warmer weather.

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K-Pod Wows on the West Side!

On our 11:00 o’clock wildlife adventure leaving from Anacortes today, we found orcas and enjoyed absolutely perfect weather! We first slowed down near Colville Island, on the south side of Lopez, to catch a glimpse of a few dozen harbor seals hanging out on the rocks and soaking up the sun. But with good news of bigger wildlife ahead, we sped north and caught up with a large group of resident orcas! We came on-scene with members of K-pod on the west side of San Juan Island as they were swimming up island, fighting the strong ebb current. 

With the sun at our backs, we got some absolutely amazing looks at these guys and watched a display of varied behaviors. These orcas were tail slapping, spy hopping, swimming upside down, actively pursuing fish (most likely salmon, their favorite food), and even breaching! We were at the very least fifteen individual orcas spread out; some close by, others farther in shore, including Scoter, Lobo, Lea, Yoda, Kelp, and many other members of K-pod. We identified Tika, a sprouter male, meaning he’s in his teenage years and has yet to develop a tall 5-6 ft. adult male dorsal fin, but is growing quickly. This group put on an amazing show!
Our trip home brought the Island Explorer 3 through the narrow passage between Lopez Island and Castle rock, where we found birds like cormorants, marbled murrelets, pigeon guillemots, rhinoceros auklets, plus more harbor seals, some swimming in the water. The rest of our return trip through the San Juans was peaceful and relaxing, with calm seas and the sun following behind us all the way back to the dock. -naturalist Mackenzie Wilson 

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Humpbacks, and Orcas Makes a Double Header!!

We went north into Canada to watch humpback whales and then back into Washington for two different pods of orcas!  What a day today!  We started out heading into the fog line at the border of Canada because a couple of humpback whales had been spotted at Albert Head on Vancouver Island.  When we arrived the fog was fairly thick and it was amazing that we were able to keep track of the humpback whales with the limited visibility.  All the whales would have had to do is deviate from their course and surface a quarter mile out of their way and all of the whale watching boats would have probably lost them for good. Instead the humpbacks were swimming very slowly and steadily which made following them much easier than anticipated.  Capt. Carl had us positioned perfectly to view these two behemoths swimming side by side.  On several occasions we even caught a look at their tail flukes as they dove down deeper.  After about 20 minutes of watching the whales the fog didn’t seem to want to lift for us and we got word that a pod of orcas had been spotted back in Washington at Eastern Bank.  Time to change plans!  We peeled off to head in that direction knowing that the area we were headed to was clear as a bell and sunny – no fog.  Once we finally reached the pod of 4 transient orcas they were almost to Point Wilson.  It was the T137 pod, consisting of T137, T137A, T137B, and T137D.  The big male, T137A, was swimming off on his own while his other family members were about 300 yards away from him.  We had our best views of T137A while we could see the rest surfacing in the distance at the same time.  T137D, a two year old calf, was coming high out of the water, as calves often do!  Since we had come a long way we didn’t have too much time to spare and had to start heading back toward the dock, but little did we know that our day would get even better on our way back to Port Angeles.  Just to the north of Protection Island one of our passengers spotted a tufted puffin so we circled around to take a look at this beautiful bird that seemed to have no problem with a big whale watching boat full of passengers looking right at him!  Next we continued west and passed the Dungeness Spit lighthouse.  Shortly after passing the lighthouse Captains Carl and Shane spotted several blows off in the distance in front of us.  Low and behold we had more orcas.  It looked like 5 of them!  We were already running late, but we couldn’t pass up this golden opportunity.  We shut down the engines intending to watch the orcas swim right by, but instead they changed their course and swam right over toward us!!  Wow, they had us surrounded and surfaced almost as if they were chasing something right underneath our boat, or were they just coming over to check us out!  What an amazing thrill!  We didn’t have a lot of time with them, but I managed to identify T34, and T34A in this group but I couldn’t figure out the others for sure.  A few minutes after we said goodbye to these whales Capt. Carl spotted two more blows about a half mile away and we watched as three more orcas swam by.  We were late but all our passengers had big smiles on their faces!  What an amazing and surprising day !  Naturalist Bart Rulon

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Double Header on are Farthest Trip West in Company History!!!

Port Angeles 11:00am:  We traveled all the way out to the Jordan River, plus another 5 miles, to watch a humpback whale, four transient orcas, and lots more !!  That’s one of the main reasons we are now running trips out of Port Angeles.  It allows us to reach much farther west than we’ve ever been able to go!  It paid off big today.  Our first whale of the day came near Shearingham.  We watched a humpback whale surface several times in a row and each time on his last surfacing he would arch his back and show his tail flukes.  Then out of nowhere, in the middle of watching the whale, we spotted an Elephant Seal posing with her proboscis up in the air!  That was a rare sight for sure.  After about a minute of posing she slipped slowly back into the water and back into the depths.  On our last pass with the humpback whale he turned and aimed right toward us for a huge thrill!!  As we pulled away, he arched his back and raised his tail flukes high into the air for the best fluke views of the day.  I saw just enough of his tail flukes at an angle to identify him as BCZ0180, most likely.  Normally we would have spent more time with him, but we knew that a pod of transient killer whales was only about 5 miles out in front of him, just to the west.  We wanted to double up on whale species so we headed out to look for them.  Within a few minutes a small pod of Dall’s porpoise swam in and diverted our attention!  We checked them out for a few minutes, and we even saw a tiny calf swimming in the pod!  We had to travel 5 miles past the Jordan River before meeting up with the orcas.  It was T18, T19, T19B, and T19C.  We arrived in the middle of some hunting action, and the very first photo I took of big T19B showed him with a harbor seal in his mouth! (See picture above)  Then he did a big spyhop!!  It has been about 3 years since I’ve seen T19B, and I was amazed at how big he has gotten!  He’s a monster!  He was hunting with his grandmother T18, and they were obviously having some success.  The two of them surfaced together after the kill and we had great views of them as they swam by.  T19B still had the seal in his mouth with a trail of blood as they passed right by us!  Wow!  Later we saw T18, and T19C swimming in and the four whales swam west together as we said goodbye.  Even though we pushed far west today, we still made a little time to swing by Race Rocks to look at hundreds of California and Steller sea lions hauled out on the rocks, barking, moaning, groaning, and being raucous!  What an amazing, variety filled, Trip, and one for our record books!  Naturalist Bart Rulon    

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“T” Soup! Marine mammal eating orcas all day!

What a day full of sunshine and orcas!

We set off on our journey today and Captain Michael took us to the north along the east side of Guemes and Vendovi islands. We spotted a mature bald eagle perched in a madrona tree and a Steller sea lion swimming in the water. We continued to the north and passed Barnes and Clark islands. It wasn’t long after passing Matia Island, Captain Michael informed us that we had orcas right ahead of us! Coming our way! There were a couple of different groups! The group we hung out with first was T34, T34A, T37A, T37A1 and T37A2. They were swimming around Parker Reef, possibly engaging in some feeding behavior. There were several other whales, in two separate groups, swimming up the Orcas Island shoreline. All of the whales continued toward the east. We had some amazing looks as these animals continued to surface, a couple times close to the boat! We eventually caught up to the whales that were inshore of us. It turned out to be T36B, T36B1 (other IDs to come). Further away near Barnes Island, we also spotted T37, T37B and T37B1. We stayed extra long to enjoy these amazing animals in a most picturesque place, the northeastern shore of Orcas Island. On our way home, we spotted more harbor seals and harbor porpoise enjoying the flat calm waters of the Salish Sea!

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