Whales right from the start!!!

Everett  PM

Highlights:
Gray whale 531 within 15 minutes of dock
Great looks at gray whale 723
Stellar sea lions south of Whidbey island
Gray whales 723 and 49 on the way back in

Naturalist log:

This afternoons trip started out similar to this morning, with blue skies every where you looked and the sun beating down heavily on the earth. We did a quick clean up before boarding the passengers and then turned the boat away from the dock and headed out to more open waters. We hadn’t even gotten to the end of Jetty island before captain Carl had our first whale in his sights. We rounded the end of the island and heads quickly over to the whale to see who we had so close to port. It turned out to be #531 and she was once again moving around looking for a good spot to feed. She gave us lots of amazing looks at her tail as she dove to the bottom.

After watching her for a bit we continued on back toward the ferry crossing to the south. Before we could get there however, #723 showed up to put on a little show. He gave us some close passes and gave us some great looks at his tail as he went on deeper dives. A few times we even had the olympics in the back ground and the Washington state ferries!!! We had a great time with him before continuing on to the south.

As we reached the end of Whidbey island we passed a green marker buoy that again held signs of life, well sleepy life anyway. Two stellar sea lions were hauled out on the marker but we were searching for something bigger so we pressed on with out stopping knowing we’d be back. We headed west toward Point No Point and scoured the shores with hopes of more whales. We made a large circle scanning to the west and to the south but unfortunately all we found were some gorgeous looks at Mount Rainer.

On our way back we had a chance to stop in with the two stellar sea lions that had been napping earlier and wouldn’t you know it, they were still sleeping. As we neared the marker to get a good look one sea lion lifted its head to look at us but was clearly in amused as it put it right back down and was back to sleep in a flash. Neither sea lion was very big but they had both found a perfect spot to enjoy the sun that was still beating down.

We waved goodbye to these to lazy sea lions and continued north passed the ferries toward the docks once more. We weren’t to far from the marina when we spotted a few more blows ahead of us. Once again we had some gray whales just east of Mukilteo, doing shallow quick surfacings followed up by some lazy tails. It turned out to be 723 once again, still enjoying the day. Then suddenly just behind him #49 Patch surfaced and these two began to swim around together in the late afternoon sun. We got some amazing passes from these two huge whales and then waved goodbye as they swam off into the sunset…

What a B.E.A.utiful day it was to be on the water with sunshine and whales it was the perfect day for a trip!!!!

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Sunshine and whales!!!

Everett AM

Highlights:
Great looks at 531 outside of the delta
723 with some close passes
Lots of Rhinoceros auklets and Goldeneyes
Sunny weather and blue skies

Naturalist log:

The day started off very warm, as we got to the boat the skies were blue as far as you could see. The sun was up in full glory and the Waters of the Possesion sound lay flat and calm. We prepared the boat to the sounds of island music and by the time we were ready to go I had forgot that we weren’t in Hawaii. It didn’t take long for the guests to arrive and for us to be off the dock and headed out on our adventure.

We headed out along Jetty island watching groups of seagulls fly along the shoreline and then had to do a slow up for our first wildlife sighting of the day. A California sea lion was hauled out on the green buoy just off of Jetty island!!! Sunning himself with his head propped up on the side of the buoy, he barely even batted an eye at us and so it was time to continue onward.

Our first whales were spotted far up in the delta beyond where we can reach so we continued to search while watching the exhalations of these whales in the distance. It didn’t take captain Carl long to find another whale, it was feeding down by the wood chip barge that is often times out floating passed Jetty island. When we got on scene we started getting some great looks and soon found out we had #531 and like the other whales she was in feeding. She showed of her tail as she fed and even gave us some looks at her peck fins once or twice.

After spending time with her we split off and joined up with #723 Lucy, as he made his way towards Gedney island. He showed us his tail a few times and gave us some nice close passes as he went. Once he got into the shallows he joined the current trend and also began to feed taking shallow dives to the bottom. Knowing he was going to be busy for a while feeding we decided to take a look south and see what we came up with. We said goodbye to 723 and headed south toward the end of Whidbey island.

Unfortunately our southern search didn’t produce much just some great looks at groups of loons and rhinoceros auklets. At that point time was running short and we had to begin our trip back toward the dock. Just a little ways passed the Mukilteo ferry landing we had a second encounter with Lucy #723!!! He gave us some more great looks and even fluked us a few times before waving goodbye. With that we headed into port, happy with the shows we had and the beautiful weather we were able to enjoy out on the water!!!!

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Wow! The whales have sure been making this season spectacular with multiple gray whales in the area and some incredible transient orca encounters so far! AND, Look at the upcoming weather forecast!! What better way to celebrate this beautiful spring weather than to get out on the water with some whales! Saturday marks the start of our Anacortes program, but it also is the first scheduled Sunset Gray Whale Trip from Everett!! Have a great dinner at one of the many resurantes in the Everett Marina and then join the Island Explorer 4 and her crew for a relaxing 6PM departure! Hope to see you there!

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Clash of the Titans!!!

Everett Pm

Highlights:
T137’s making a kill northwest side of Gedney island
T137A harassing gray whales #531 and #56
T137 saving T137A from gray whales
#531 and #56 in shallows off Camano island
Bald eagles flying above the gray whales
#49 and #21 on the way in south east of Gedney island

Naturalist log:

As we prepared to get off the dock for our second trip of the day the skies began to really clear up as the sun pushed its way through the clouds. A cooler wind had begun to pick up across the Possession sound and small white caps began to appear over the waters. The day had begun to feel warmer though as the sun was strong enough to cancel out the chill of the wind. It looked as though the afternoon trip would be just as gorgeous weather-wise as the morning trip had been.

We got underway and as per the usual headed down the channel and out around Jetty island. We passed the green and the yellow markers and blasted our way out to the shallows on the south end of Gedney island. It was here we spotted our first whale, unfortunately it disappeared and seemed to have long down times, so it was clear we would need something better. Just then captain Mike got in contact with a Washington state ferry captain who told us he had seen orca whales north bound from the Clinton ferry dock not 20 minutes prior. That was enough for us and we began to scour the white spotted seas for the 4 animals in the area.

Our search brought us north toward Saratoga passage on the westside of Gedney island and it was here captain Mike spotted one of the orcas!!! It was T137A and he was by himself, we didn’t know where his pod was but knew they couldn’t be to far off so as we followed T137A north we continued to search. We hadn’t gone far when small blows popped up a little ways ahead of us, immediately we knew it was the rest of the pod. After a few more looks at T137A, a young male orca, we caught up with T137, mom and her two youngest children. Soon T137A had sped up and was back up with the rest of the group.

Not long after that the pod began a hunt and with what seemed like little effort they were able to take down some unlucky sea mammal. Mom and son did the primary parts of the hunt, taking down the animal and finally making the kill. They moved in with precise and quick agile movements destroying whatever animal they had found and then feeding small bits to the young!!! A sea gull swooped in out of nowhere and picked up one small chunk of mammal guts and then flew off back toward Gedney island, proud of his prize I am sure.

After the whales had finished with their afternoon snack they continued north bound and we followed along, excited to see what may happen next. As we traveled the orcas grouped up tightly and gave us some great shots with the waves forcing them higher out of the water on each surfacing. Suddenly a passenger spotted blows from a gray whale in the distance, not in the immediate path of the orcas but close enough to get the heart going. Being a group of only 4 orcas we knew there was no way they would attempt to attack a full-size gray whale and as we expected the pod continued on passed the gray whales. Well the entire pod except for T137A who had split off from the group!!!

At first we didn’t know where T137A had gone but then we spotted him directly south of th gray whales and on a collision course with them. He had slowed down and moved over 600 yards to the east just to line up his approach and it was become clear that this young orca was up to no good. We still had no thought in our heads that he was actually going to attack the grays, up until the moment that he was right on top of them!!!!!

Now unbeknownst to T137A but knownst to all of us on the Island Explorer 4, there were two gray whales together, not just the one like T137A might have thought. Peck fins began to fly left and right as the grays rolled onto their backs and blasted T137A with their exhalation!!!! They were definitely not happy to have the orca intruding on them and were prepared to fight him back. Soon T137A was circling the grays weaving in and out of their peck slaps and all around creating havoc!!!! Then things took a bad turn for T137A as he found himself in the middle of these 2 giants of the deep.

At this point mom and her 2 younger kids had continued north and were a good 500 yards away when mom suddenly changed direction. T137A had most likely called for help and as moms always do, T137 was coming to the rescue. She raced in from the north, her 2 little ones just a few yards behind, and plunged head first into the chaos that was unfolding!!! In mere seconds you could tell she was putting up one heck of a fight as the grays became more sporadic, then suddenly T137A,B, and C came rushing out of the brawl and swam north quickly!!!

Mom still hadn’t surfaced as A,B, and C passed our bow, nice and close I might add, and the grays continued to freak out. It turns out mom had sent her offspring to safety and stayed behind to give those gray whales what for. Now we can only speculate at this point as the altercation was now under the surface but what was happening was plain to see. The grays peck slaps had begun to slow down and it seemed the bulk of the fight was over, thats when mom surfaced just north of the battle ground, headed toward her offspring!!!! It was the most amazing thing I have seen in all my life and my mind spent the rest of the trip in an adrenaline fueled cloud.

We stayed with the grays as they settled back down from their scuffle and watched as T137 and her family made their way north. It wasn’t until the orcas were out of sight that the grays fully calmed down and made their way into the shallows on the south end of Camano island. At first #531 seemed to be acting a little strange as she kept diving with a tilt to the right. There were no visible injuries as far as we could see on either gray whale but they were definitely shaken up. 56 and 531 stuck together for quite a while after that to ensure no other orcas were passing through the area and then they finally split up with 531 headed south toward Gedney island.

We followed 531 for a few looks then picked up speed and continued south toward the dock. After passing the shallows off of south Gedney island we met up with #49 Patch and #21 as they swam in circles sticking closely together just like 531 and 56 had been doing. After getting some nice looks at these last two gray whales we headed in for the day feeling insanely lucky to have witnessed such an ordeal and lived to talk about it. This trip will forever burn on in the hearts and memories of all those that were onboard today!!!!

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Hungry hungry gray whales!!!

Everett AM

Highlights:
#723 Lucy and #49 Patch swimming together
Tail shots from #383
Lazy tails from Patch and Lucy
Nice tails of 383 during some feeding behavior
Nice weather

Naturalist Log:

When we first arrived to the boat this morning the skies were gray and a light breeze was blowing across the seas. Small patches of sunlight were poking through the clouds and the cries of gulls echoed throughout the area. Passengers began to arrive, excited for the journey that lay before them, and the clouds even began to part, giving way to blue skies. The waters lay still upon the Possesion sound and in no time at all the bow of the Island Explorer 4 was blasting through them in search of whales.

It wasn’t long before captain Mike spotted the first whales of the day swimming in the shallows off of Gedney island. It was our friend #723 Lucy and our old buddy #49 Patch, swimming in circles and skimming the surface with their tail flukes. After a few looks we parted ways with the two whales and headed south toward the Mukilteo ferry landing. We hadn’t been going in that direction long before we had ourselves a 3rd gray whale, #383, who was swimming in the deeps and even showing his tail a couple times.

We left #383 and joined back up with #723 and #49 who were traveling north toward Gedney island. Here we watched them swimming again, in large circles, side by side. They brought their tails out of the water on a few surfacing before they made their way back into the shallows. Knowing it was unlikely that we’d see much more tail from them we headed off to the north. As we traveled around Gedney island we ended up running into #383 again. This time he was feeding in the shallows right off shore and yet was showing his tail, dive after dive. He fed back and forth for sometime before pointing himself again to the north.

At this point our time had run out and we began to make our way back to the dock. On the way in we found 723 and 49 once again and were able to get some good looks at them. It was a spectacular day on the water and we definitely got our full of whales.

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A whale of an Easter!!!

Everett

Highlights:
Close looks at #49
Tail shots of #723
#383 close up
Bald eagles near Gedney island
#21 briefly

Naturalist Log:

When we arrived at the boat this morning the skies were dark but the winds that were howling to the north were nothing more than a light breeze. It didn’t take long before the dark clouds began to unleash the rains they held, at first a light sprinkle but quickly growing to a torrential down pour. We continued preparing the boat regardless knowing rain or shine we’d be headed out in search of the illusive gray whale, and any other whales really. In no time at all we had the boat ready, loaded all our guests up and departed from the dock.

Jetty island was empty again, most likely due to the high tide and very limited area that wasn’t underwater. After rounding Jetty island we pushed west towards Gedney island and the shallows that lay around it. It didn’t take long before captain Mike had our first whale of the day. It was #49 patch and boy was he being social today. We got some very nice close passes by #49 and even had him fluke us almost right next to the boat. We got some great looks at him before he passed us by and headed toward Mukilteo. He surfaced once more close to us and revealed he had not been alone, as a second whale came up right on top of him. It turned out to be #383 and had we not gotten a photo you would of never even known he was there.

After that we headed over to some exhalations we were seeing toward the Mukilteo ferry landing. It was our old pal #723 out in the deeps, just doing some large circles and occasionally showing his tail. Soon he began to come closer to the boat giving us the chance at some very great views and even showing off some more tail. After that we made our way back to the shallows off of Gedney island and again joined up with #49 and #383. These two were definitely comfortable with us at this point as they gave some very close passes and even surfaced right off our bow!!!

After some amazing looks at the whales we decided to traverse to the north in hopes of another whale. As we headed up the east side of Gedney we found an eagle perched on one of the shallow markers. It was a mature bird and it was staring at the water around bit, intently!!!it didn’t last long there however as several smaller birds began to harrass it forcing it to fly off to the island. With that we continued north around the end of Gedney and then pointed toward Whidbey island.

We hadn’t crossed halfway when captain Mike spotted yet another whale, this time it was the notorious #21. We got a few looks at the whale but as it is known to do it did not show its tail so we said goodbye. We headed back down to the shallows south of Gedney to find Patch again and boy were we in for a surprise. While we were circling Gedney island, #723 had turned back in to the shallows and joined up with #383!!!!! We got insynch with these two whales and were really enjoying the show when suddenly #531 popped up out of no where. She began heading in towards the two males and eventually linked up with the in the shallows. They began to roll over each other and even showed their peck fins a few times it was beautiful!!!! To top it all off the weather was gorgeous while we were on the water and we were joined by an eagle while watching the whales.

After that great day on the water we turned back to the docks, we got in just in time as another torrential downpour came back in, like we planned the weather or something!!!!

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Whales Everywhere!!!

Everett Am

Highlights:
723 and 383 near Gedney island
Talked with John Calamokidis
49 and 531 south end of Gedney island
723, 49, and 531 join up
Bald eagles north end of Gedney island
383 and 21 west of Gedney island
56 on the way in to dock

Naturalist Log:

We arrived to the Island Explorer 4 today with sunny blue skies as far as the eyes could see. To the east, the snowy peaks of the Cascade mountains rose high above the green conifers that lined the foot hills. To the west, the white frosty mountains of the Olympic range stood tall just beyond Whidbey island. The Possesion sound lay calm with only a light breeze dance across her surface. In no time at all the boat was prepared, we greeted our passengers and in no time at all we were leaving the dock.

We cruised down Jetty island which was void of life as most of its residence were out fishing and gathering breakfast for the day. We continued passed the end of Jetty and out into the sound getting some great looks at group of cormorants on a navigation marker. After that it was time to head west and start searching for some whales. It didn’t take long before we found ourselves in with some gray whales. 723 and 383 were swimming together east of hat which allowed for some amazing photos with both the Cascades and Mount baker in the back ground. After some great looks 383 split off toward Whidbey island so we stopped and watched him slowly move off.

As we sat there, John Calamokidis a lead researcher with Cascadia research came over and gave us a great insight into their new tagging program and just how well things are going. It is always great to hear from the experts and see the behind the scenes aspects of their research. After the chat we continued on with 723 who had headed back to the shallows off of Gedney island. We continued to get great shots of him and in no time at all he was joined by two more whales!!! This time it was gray whales 49 Patch and 531!!! They all swam together and for some reason swam right back underneath mount baker again. This let us get great pics of not just one but 3 whales with a beautiful backdrop.

After that we departed from the whales and made our way up the coast of Gedney island where captain Mike found us some bald eagles. They were mature birds with their white feathers glowing bright in the sunshine. Continuing passed them we rounded the north end of Gedney island and made our way south again. It was here that we ran back into 383 and this time he was joined by 21. These two were side by side swimming slowly north along Gedney island. They gave a few lazy tail shots just skimming the surface as they went and so we said goodbye to these whales and made our way in.

On our way in the animals weren’t done we got to view one last whale, #56!!! After some great looks we continued in to the dock under sunny blue skies and calm seas it was a perfect trip!!!

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