A Humpback, Orcas, and Elephant Seals Equals Awesome!

Port Angeles:
We had an action packed day with a pod of 5 transient orcas, a humpback whale, and a bunch of entertaining elephant seals!  The weather conditions were nice enough that we could head west in search of whales and it paid off with lots of wildlife.  We aimed toward Becher Bay where a pod of transient killer whales were spotted heading east from the Pacific.  It was the T60 pod consisting of a mom and her offspring T60C, T60D, T60E, and T60F.  T60C is what we call a sprouter male at age 14, because in their teenage years the male’s dorsal fins really start to sprout up.  T60F was the youngest member of this pod at 3 years old.  The T60s swam at a pretty determined pace toward Race Rocks.   After viewing them for almost an hour Capt. Scott decided to peel off to look for wildlife around Race Rocks, knowing we would eventually swing back over to check out the orcas again afterward.  Race Rocks was a big highlight for all of us because we found a bunch of elephant seals hauled out of the water and they were in an entertaining mood.  First we spotted a couple of young males that decided to spar with each other.  They must have been practicing for the day in the future when they might have to fight bloody battles with each other in order to secure a harem of females at the breeding grounds.  I’ve watched some of these epic battles at Ano Nuevo in California!  At first the two big males nearby seemed uninterested the young seals antics, but eventually they perked up and started to throw their weight around and show off their dominance!  Everyone on the boat was surely impressed with thousands of pounds giggling around!  It was definitely the best elephant seal show I’ve seen in Washington!  We also spotted a bunch of harbor seals at Race Rocks which gave everyone a good idea just how much bigger the elephant seals really are.  
As we pulled away from Race Rocks our plans to visit the orcas right away changed because some of our friends from Canada spotted a humpback whale!  Heck yeah we are going to go out and make it a double-header!  This whale was pretty cooperative after an initial 8 minute dive, and it gave us a few good looks at the underside of it’s tail flukes.  How about that, its a whale that we don’t have in our catalog yet!  That’s great!   At the end of our visit, and after a long dive this whale surprised everyone by surfacing right at our bow!  The exhalation blow was incredibly load, and quite frankly, it gave everyone at the front of the boat a scare at first!  Scott shut off the engines and we watched this whale swim off peacefully to the west.  Well, at this point we had just enough time to cruise east and catch up with the transient pod one last time before we would call it a day.  The killer whales were really traveling fast and had already made it 6 miles away at this point.  Eventually we caught up with the T60s south of Trial Island and watched them for about 10 minutes before we turned back toward the dock.  On the way back, at the end of Ediz Hook, we stopped to check out a California sea lion just a few minutes away from the dock! What an awesome day!  Naturalist Bart Rulon   

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