… As the two males swam slowly north ward the rest of the orcas turned west and began to porpoise in their direction, and with that the hunt was on!!!!
As the fog of the previous night burnt away, creeping slowly toward the horizon like sheets being slowly pulled from a bed, the sun began to make its way into the sky. Blue skies stretched across the Salish sea and a slight breeze drifted throughout the marina, hardly resembling the gusty winds that had howled the night before. Smoke rose slowly from the mill as the cries of gulls filled the air, as the earth came to life the day began.
The IE4 left the dock at 1030, loaded up with many excited passengers and as the boat left the marina an osprey flew over her bow and landed on a piling just off her port side!!!! The IE4 continued out into the harbor toward the Salish sea and the animals that populate her nutrient rich waters. Soon large groups of rhinoceros auklets passed the boat, barely even noticing the boat as they dove down under the smooth surface in search of the days fish breakfast.
As she reached the end of Ediz hook and the Port Angeles harbor the IE4 continued east toward the shallow banks strewn across the Salish sea. Current lines painted the surface as the sun glimmered across the small waves filling the air with a spectacular light. The IE4 surfed gracefully upon the larger rollers coming in from the Pacific Ocean making the ride smooth and pleasant. In no time at all she had passed the Dungeness lighthouse and had Whidbey island in her sights.
Just north of her position a few boats had found a super pod of transient orcas and the IE4 was committed to finding them!!!! As she headed north toward Smith island a lone minke whale quickly appeared upon the surface ahead. Unfortunately it was not gonna stick around and only showed to brief exhalations before disappearing. The crew searched hard 360 degrees around the boat but to no avail, and so the IE4 was north bound again.
At this point whales started coming into view, and not just any whales but transient orcas!!!! The whales had split into two groups with two larger makes in the west and decent sized group of females to the east. Without warning their calm behavior suddenly changed and the show had begun. As the two males continued northward the group in the east began to porpoise quickly in their direction!!!! The hunt was on and coming directly toward the IE4!!!!
The porpoising whales passed the ship just off the stern, rising high above the water and picking up more and more speed as they went. Then the two males turned east to head off what ever prey was being chased. When the whales all grouped up they began to circle the unknown future meal, tiring it out before they would eventually digest it. A few younger orcas circled outside the group, watching and learning to hunt, for one day this responsibility would rest with them.
That’s when it happened, blood began to show at the surface like red rose peddles floating down a stream. The evidence was there, a kill had been made and the orcas were about to feast. At this point they began to circle the boat!!!!! Without a care to our proximity, they continued to shred their fresh kill to pieces. Splitting it up amongst each other and leaving small bits behind for the seagulls. With the hydrophone in the passengers and crew of the IE4 felt as though they were under the surface as whistle and clicks echoed across the IE4’s speakers.
Out of nowhere two large males surfaced behind the boat and boy were they having a good time. At one moment the sound of whale laughter even came in across the hydrophone!!!!! It was an amazing feeling to be seeing and hearing these amazing animals. The males continued north passed the Ie4 providing some very good looks and even sharing what was in their mouth with with the passengers. As they reached the bow one of the whales chomped down into its lunch and then dove below the deeps to enjoy it.
After an absolute intensely amazing show it was time to go and leave the whales to their own devices. The hydrophone was pulled up and everyone waved goodbye as the whales continued north. The IE4 then heade south to Minor island where a lot of bird activity was going on. Suddenly captain Shane spotted to eagles, which we believe were golden eagles perched upon the remains of an old lighthouse!!!!!
With this the IE4 continued west again toward home port, with the sun still high in the sky and the waves dying down. The IE4 passed many more sea birds as she went including the deep diving common murre. It was the perfect day to be out in the Salish sea and to see and hear transient orcas was an amazing experience!!!!
A once in a lifetime experience was had by all those who rode aboard the IE4 today!!!! Definitely a day that will not be long forgotten with gorgeous weather and orca whales on a rampage!!!!!