Triple Whale Day! Humpbacks, Orcas and a Minke

Port Angeles.

*At least 4 Humpback Whales spotted at the rock pile area as we made began our wildlife adventure. A couple of the whales were identified as BCX1068 “Split Fluke” & BCX1057
*Resident Orcas seen near Eagle point off of San Juan Island. Some Orcas identified included J27 “Blackberry”, J17 “Princess Angeline”, J28 “Polaris” and J46 “Star”.
*Minke Whale was spotted just west of the ODAS bouy.
*Huge pod of Harbor Porpoise seen swimming as we passed along Coyote Bank, aka Border Bank.
*Neat view of a Naval ship as we passed it by.
*More Humpbacks during our return to Port Angeles.

Naturalist Log:
An AMAZING day out on the water! The sunshine kept us warm as the calm flat seas allowed everything to be easily spotted. Immediately after passing Ediz Hook and entering the open waters, jumping Salmon and a few Harbor Porpoise were spotted. It didn’t take long before our first large whales were spotted. Humpback whales were surfacing and exhalations were noticed in a few different directions. At least 4 Humpback Whales were counted in the area. A pair of whales caught our attention so we headed towards them. The two whales were BCX1068 “Split Fluke” and BCX1057 swimming side by side. With Mt. Baker clearly visible in the background of the traveling whales, our views were picturesque. As we enjoyed our great looks at the traveling duo,  Captain Scott got a report about Orcas off of San Juan Island. So, we said our goodbyes to the Humpbacks and made our way across the Juan de Fuca Strait. As we approached, just West of Salmon bank, dorsal fins came into view. The first fin to catch our attention was the tall dorsal of J27″Blackberry”. Spread out along the island were many other Orcas, including J17″Princess Angeline”, J28″Polaris”, and J46″Star”. As we watched with wonder, some sharp eyes noticed a small Orca closer to the shore, could it be one of the new calfs? Suddenly, Captain Scott put the engines into neutral as two orcas popped up right next to the boat. It was amazing, the Orcas passed right in front of us! What a treat. We continued watching the Orcas and even enjoyed some Spy Hops and Fluke Slaps. We were about to say our goodbyes when J27″Blackberry” got our attention again. He was rolling to his side and bringing up his pectoral flipper and slapping it against the water’s surface. Maybe he wanted to get a chance to wave goodbye to us 🙂 It was a great way to say goodbye to the Orcas, though we continued to keep our eyes on them as we turned and started making our way towards Port Angeles. We weren’t far along in out return direction when a third type of whale showed itself. It was a Minke Whale, just west of the NOAA’s ODAS bouy. Amazing! We got a few good looks at the whale before it demonstrated how it earned its nickname and became a “Slinky Minke”. We continued on. As we passed over Coyote Bank, also known as Border Bank, passengers started to notice many Harbor Porpoise. It was a Huge pod! We just kept seeing more and more of the small bodies and triangle dorsal fins break the surface of the water. There was so many! Eventually we reached the end of that amazing pod, and got treated to another awesome view. We passed by a Naval Ship, come enough to see some great details to the vessel. After passing the naval ship, we were back around the area known as the Rock Pile. More Humpback Whale exhalations were seen. Suddenly, a tail caused a huge splash. It was a Humpback Whale doing what is known as a Peduncle Throw. We enjoyed a few more looks at the huge humpback whales and then returned to Port Angeles. What an amazing Triple Whale Day!
*Photo Credits to Lee Leddy*

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Orcas, Orcas, Everywhere!!!


Harbor seals at Colville island
Resident orcas at Salmon bank passing close to the boat
Bald eagle on Castle rock
More resident orcas in Rosario strait near Blakely island

Naturalist log

It was a hot day, as the crew prepared the boat for her journey into the Salish sea, one of the hottest days so far this season. By the time the crew was ready to greet the guests temperatures had risen well into the upper 70’s, mind you it is only 9 am at this point. The sun was definitely showing no mercy today as the sky sat void of any clouds, it truly was turning into a scorcher and a perfect day to be out on the water. As the boat left Cap Sante marina the breeze began to kick in a cool the boat and all who had stepped aboard her decks for the fun filled journey ahead. It wasn’t long before the Island Explorer 3 found herself in Rosario strait head south toward the Olympic mountain range which was showing itself nicely in the sunny weather. Mount Baker and even Mount Rainer were showing today, both better than they have in weeks!!!!

As the IE3 reached the lower end of Lopez island it was time for a little slow up and to enjoy the local wildlife. The IE3 rounded the south end of Colville island where it spotted a large group of harbor seals hauled out on rocks near the waters edge. Soon harbor seal pups began to pop their little heads up and look around, unsure of what to think about the IE3 and her passengers. After the cuteness had really set in it was time to venture further west and see what else lay ahead in the Salish sea for the IE3. As the IE3 passed Iceberg point Captain Carl spotted our first whale of the day. It was a minke whale, one that was being very cooperative and showing itself quite a bit. With one last dive the minke dove deep and it was now time to press on and see what else may be out feeding on this gorgeous day.

The IE3 was just south of Salmon bank off the South end of San Juan island when Captain Carl first spotted the orca whales. They were northbound toward the island and occasionally stopping to fish and frolic in the beautiful weather that lay above the surface of the water. As more boats came to join the IE3 headed further off shower to join with yet another group of resident orcas!!! This time it was members of Jpod and they were also headed north to fish. This group became entranced by the IE3 as whale after whale swam right passed the IE3. They definitely had no cares that we were around today and some of the whales even began to get a little playful. They would spy hop and slap tails and swim all about causing quite the commotion at the surface. sadly like all amazing shows this year this one to had to come to an end and so the IE3 departed scene and headed east bound.

Before leaving the area though the IE3 headed north to Whale rocks where it spotted many Stellar sea lions and even a small minke whale swimming around the rocks!!!! the looks were great and with that the IE3 headed onward. Upon reaching Castle rock the IE3 turned in and took a nice slow down between Lopez island and Castle rock. As she went along captain Carl spotted a bald eagle perched high on Castle rock waiting for a fish to swim by and become an easy meal. After reaching the exiting from there the IE3 headed north scanning the eastern shore of Lopez island. As it did it found nothing, just large groups of seagulls awaiting a free meal. With this the IE3 continued slowly up toward Blakely island toward more animals ahead.

This time it was more J and Kpod whales, frolicking as the other group was but headed slowly south toward the Straits of Juan de Fuca. The IE3 got many amazing looks at these creatures as it was able to hang out for some time. Soon even the second show began to grow to short and once again it was time to head east and home. Both shows however were packed with close passes from the orcas and some amazing looks at these beautiful animals. It was also and amazing day to be on the water as the cold breeze from earlier had begun to heat up and you could truly feel summer blowing in from the coast!!!


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Humpbacks in the morning and Orcas in the afternoon

Port Angeles.

Morning Highlights:
*Big group of birds just outside of the marina, feeding on a bait ball of fish.
*Humpback Whale BCX1057 at the Rock Pile area, appeared to be in a feeding/hunting mode as it traveled in zig zags and circles.
*Just south of Constance Bank, 3 Humpbacks were in view with even more in the distance. We got great looks at BCZ0180 “Monarch”, BCX1068 “Split Fluke” & BCZ0298 “Split Fin”.
*A Steller Sea Lion was spotted riding the Humpback Whales for a short period of time!
*Harbor Seals, California Sea Lions, and Steller Sea Lions all spotted at the Race Rocks Island area.

Naturalist Log:
Sunshine, clear skies and calm seas made this a great day to be out on the water. We got great looks at several Humpback Whales, including some very close looks when the whales came towards our boat. Check back soon for more updates and photos.

Afternoon Highlights:
*Jumping Salmon all throughout the Juan de Fuca Straits.
*Harbor Porpoise easily spotted thanks to the calm seas.
*A Steller Sea Lion swimming along a current line, possibly feeding.
*Resident Orcas on the South end of San Juan Island, near Eagle Point. Members included J27 “Blackberry”, J28 “Polaris”, J46 “Star”, J17 “Princess Angeline”, K22 “Sekiu”, K33 “Tika”, K37 “Rainshadow” and L92 “Crewser”. Other Orcas seen in the distance.
*Naval Submarine seen being escorted as it made its way towards the Pacific Ocean.

Naturalist Highlights:
Great day with the Orcas. We got to enjoy some great looks at several individuals as they swam along the coast of San Juan Island. Check back for updates and photos.

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Orcas at San Juan Island!

Port Angeles.

*Jumping Salmon throughout the Juan de Fuca Strait.
*Canadian Warship passing by and some unique aircrafts in the sky.
*Resident Orcas near the coastline of San Juan Island. A mixture of J, K & L pod Orcas.
*Humpback Whales spotted at Border Bank. Several blows were spotted. Fluke sightings identified BCX1057 among the whales.

Naturalist Log.
The clear skies allowed for many great views today – not just of wildlife. We started our adventure with views of the amazing Olympic Mountains. Across the Strait, another Mountain could easily be seen – Mt. Baker’s snow cap was vibrant and clear. Hard to believe that it is over 60 miles away from Port Angeles on days as clear as today. As we crossed the Juan de Fuca Strait, sharp eyed passengers noticed fish jumping high out of the water. It was Salmon! The open waters full of Salmon is always a good sign for our wildlife search. Shortly after entering Canadian waters, a Canadian Warship came into view. It was quite a sight. It wasn’t long before we arrived at San Juan Island, just south of Lime Kiln Point Lighthouse, when Orcas were in sight. There were several Orcas swimming in close groups. Such a joy to see so many dorsal fins side by side. When we arrived on scene with the Orcas, they were on a path heading north up island, which gave us a gorgeous view of dorsal fins in front of the Lime Kiln Point Lighthouse. Suddenly, the Orcas changed direction and headed south down island. They continued to stay in their tight groups, hugging the coast line of San Juan Island. Perhaps they were getting some rest and enjoying the smooth waters. We were able to identify a few of the Orcas present including J2 “Granny”, J27 “Blackberry”, K20 “Spock”, K26 “Lobo”, K25 “Scoter” and more. At one point, one Orca began to slap its Flukes on the surface – multiple times. Time eventually came when we said our goodbyes and headed back towards Port Angeles. Just as we exited the Canadian Waters at Border Bank, large exhalations caught our attention. They were Humpback Whales, several in fact. They must have been enjoying the shallow waters that the Border Bank provides. We were lucky enough to see some Flukes come up and even identified on Humpback as BCX1057. What a treat.
It was a beautiful day out at sea.
**Picture Credits to Lee Leddy**

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Closest orcas to our dock (maybe ever)! Literally in our backyard!


9:00 departure

Our morning trip began with our little turkey vulture chick perched in its next on Cap Sante! Then, we had another treat in store for us in Guemes Channel, a mature bald eagle perched on a channel marker! It looked like he was eating something. Then he took flight! Right off the bow of the boat. We took a turn to the south to aid in the search and we found some incredibly active harbor porpoise! They were surface active and playing in our wake! We left our playful harbor porpoise behind as we continued to the south toward Smith Island, we turned toward south Lopez Island and found orcas! It was some marine mammal eating orcas: T37, T37A, T37A1, T37A2, T37A3, T37B, T37B1, T34 and T34A. They were incredibly spread out along Rosario Strait, heading north. We had a quick swim by, right under the boat by a couple of the animals! Breathtaking! We took a little break and cruised through Burrows Bay. We saw a couple of harbor seals and harbor porpoise. We caught up with the whales again just north of Washington Park (where there were several Homo sapiens watching them go by – including my little sister!)! They started cruising west down Guemes Channel, something the crew had never seen (in the last nine years)! We were intrigued as one group was traveling along the north side of the channel and the other group was on the south side of the channel. Eventually, they made the south eastern tip of Guemes Island, where they took a turn to the north. The whales split Huckleberry Island, then they stopped and began swimming in different directions! We had some amazing looks! They continued north and we took a turn to the south toward home port. Honestly, we had whales the closest to our dock that we have had in Anacortes! What a morning trip! One for the record books!

3:30 departure – thanks to our season pass holder, Sara, for the lovely report from tonight’s trip!

Our wildlife viewing started today before we’d even boarded the boat with a bald eagle soaring overhead and a harbor seal floating in the marina not far from the boat. As we pushed off the dock Captain Michael steered us up the east side of Guemes Island on our way north. Along the way we spotted another bald eagle perched in the trees on Jack Island. 
But we had bigger things ahead and they weren’t too far away. It was a group of the marine mammal-hunting killer whales and right away they were showing us that that’s who they were. Our first views were of them heading right towards a huge bait ball. There were tons of gulls and at least half a dozen harbor seals feeding on the forage fish. In an instant the gulls took off and it seemed like not a moment too soon—there was a huge splash and some quick movements from the whales. The hunt was on! In true apex predator fashion they finished off their prey, likely a harbor seal, in moments and milled in the area sharing the meal with each other. It was at this time we were able to confirm that these whales were the same ones seen on this morning’s trip. It was the T37s and the T34s.  
Matriarch T37 was with her two daughters, T37A and T37B and her many grandchildren, including the youngest, T37A3 who is less than a year old. The group of whales 
milled in the same general area for quite a while with a few splitting off in pairs. The gulls were picking up little scraps, also signifying that a kill had been made. Once they were done the whales began swimming west towards the Lummi Island shoreline with the adults ahead and a couple of the youngsters lagging behind. But they wouldn’t be left behind
for long and eventually began porpoising after the adults until they met up closer to shore. One group swam very close to shore, delighting some residents and beach goers as they headed north. The rest grouped up closer to us moving north as well. In the late afternoon light their blows turned into what we like to call “rainblows”, shimmering like a rainbow each time they rose to the surface to breathe. 
After a nice visit with them we left them still heading north into the Strait of Georgia and we turned south where we had another treat in store! We headed south on a route we rarely take, continuing down on the east side of Lummi Island through Hale Passage. As we cruised through the pass we got great looks at the county run ferry, Whatcom Chief, as it ran it’s short route from mainland Washington to the island. 
Near the south end of Lummi we found our third and fourth bald eagles of the day and they appeared to be a mated pair! With the sun sinking lower in the sky Captain Michael positioned the boat so we were able to get a beautiful look of one of the eagle’s silhouette against the sky. Once we continued on our way we found a harbor seal mom and pup at Viti Rocks keeping company with a large group of gulls and nesting cormorants. Those weren’t to be our last eagles
 and seals though. We found even more seals hauled out on a beach on the east side of Guemes Island. There had to be at least thirty seals, including many moms with their pups. Just to the south of them were our fifth and sixth bald eagles perched high in the trees keeping watch. Directly below one was another mom and pup seal tucked up against the steep cliff face. 
Once we picked up a little speed we saw several harbor porpoise feeding in the current lines and more evidence of the presence of forage fish. It was another bait ball and there were gulls and a couple of harbor seals actively feeding at the surface. 
What a wonderful day here in the Salish Sea. We can’t ask for anything more than sunshine and awesome wildlife from start to finish! 

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Photo of the Day, starring none other than Granny! Naturalist Bart Rulon captured this cartwheel on yesterday’s morning trip, proving that J2 is still at the top of her game at 104 years old. #whalesinthewild #pacificnw #killerwhale #salishseaworld #islandadventures

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Humpbacks Galore!!!

Port Angeles

Great looks at Heather and her calf
Stellar sea lions at Race rocks
Tufted puffin off of Ediz hook

Naturalist Log:
The day started with a cool wind blowing in from the west and the cries of gulls searching the marina for food. As gray clouds covered the sky it was becoming clear that the month long heat wave had finally taken a brake. The crew prepped the boat and soon began to bring passengers on board. The wind had picked up slightly by the time the boat was leaving the dock but the care and hearty guests were ready to brave it all for glory.

After rounding the end of Ediz hook the IE4 headed north toward an area known as the Rockpile. Minutes later a report came in about humpbacks at Victor Foxtrot buoy and so the IE4 adjusted course and headed in that direction. It wasn’t long before large exhalations were seen on the horizon and some large splashes from a playful humpback apeared in the distance. This whale was definitely happy to see the IE4 as it continued its playful show for quite some time, it was amazing!!!!

After getting fill a good fill of Heather and her calf the IE4 headed west toward Race rocks and Canada. Hoping to find something good out on the rocks the IE4 did a nice slowdown passed the lighthouse and discovered a large group of Stellar sea lions. They seemed to be in the middle of an afternoon slumber as not much action took place amongst them. It was a great look though at how these animals spend part of their day.

After taking in the sea lions it was time to head back to the marina across the Straights of Juan de Fuca. Just a little ways off of Ediz hook a large splash could be seen in the distance and it was up to the IE4 to investigate. The IE4 turned and headed right for it and it turned out to be two different humpback whales. As the IE4 watched the whales fluked many times and even spy hopped once it was and amazing finish for the trip!!!!!!

After leaving the two humpbacks the IE4 headed into the marina but not before getting some great looks at a tufted puffin fishing just of the end of the hook. It was a perfect trip out into the Salish sea and the Straights of Juan de Fuca.

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Superpod Day! Granny Cartwheels!


9:00am highlights:
*J, K & L pods, with lots of breaches, spyhops, cartwheels, and Tailslaps!
*Granny, J2, does a cartwheel!!!
*harbor seals! and harbor porpoise

Naturalist Log:
We headed north today and made our first wildlife stop at Clark Island to look at some harbor seals hauled out on the rocks, and we spotted a family of 4 black oystercatchers too.  The K13 subpod was spotted near Point Roberts, but we managed to find a bigger group of orcas south of the point.  Capt. Mike spotted the dorsal fins and blows first, and it quickly became clear that we had a lot of whales!  The action started almost immediately and it lasted for our entire visit with this orca superpod!  We saws lots of breaches, spyhops, cartwheels, and tailslaps on this trip.  A few of the orcas we spotted in this first group included J2, Granny, J27, Blackberry, K26, Lobo, L87, Onyx, K33, Tika, J19, Shachi, J41, Eclipse, J51 and many others.  One of the highlights of the whole week happened when 104 year old Granny, J2, did a big cartwheel (see the first photo)!  Next we said goodbye to this big group and cruised over to look at another bunch of orcas that were trailing way behind.  We spotted J22, Oreo, J34, DoubleStuf, J38, Cookie, L72, Racer, and L105 Fluke among others, and they gave us some great views before we had to head back toward the dock!  Naturalist Bart Rulon

3:30 pm trip highlights:
*Harbor Seals and harbor porpoise
*J, K and L pod orcas

Naturalist Log:
Our wildlife viewing got started at Willow Island during our second trip of the day when we spotted several harbor seal moms and their pups.  We spotted our first orcas just past Eagle Point, and the first orca that came over to visit us at close range was none other than Granny, J2!  She gave us a great first look, and then she was followed up by J26, Mike.  He swam past our bow and then proceeded to chase a salmon at high speed, going in circles, right in front of us!  Next we spotted K20, Spock, and her mom, K13, Skagit swim by along with a few others.  We also spotted some L-pod orcas in the mix later too!  These orcas were pretty set on looking for salmon, but we did see a few breaches happen from one of the young orcas!  Later, one of the males (probably J26), got pretty frisky with a bunch of females right before we had to turn back toward the dock.  What a great day!  Naturalist Bart Rulon

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