EPIC Day of Humpbacks and Orcas!

Port Angeles.

Highlights:
*Harbor Seals at Ediz Hook
*Several Humpback Whales just west of Rock Pile
*Close looks at a few of the Humpback Whales including BCZ0180 “Monarch”
*Transient Orcas T65A family heading west offshore of Vancouver Island, joining up with another pod, T37A family
*Traveling mode Orcas with porpoising behavior from Becher Bay to Secretary Island

(photo credit: Lee Leddy)

Trip Highlights:
Our journey began with a close up look at a large tanker anchored in Port Angeles Bay. As we passed by Ediz Hook, we also saw the Port Angeles Pilot House, the Fish Pens and the U.S. Coast Guard Station. At the very end of Ediz Hook, a large group of Harbor Seals were hauled out along the shoreline. A few seals were making a splash in the water.
We entered the open waters of Juan de Fuca Strait, anxious for our day. The marine layer was around us, but that did not detour us. Our resilience paid off as Humpback Whales were spotted just west of an area known as the Rock Pile. There were several Humpbacks all spread out in the area, some swimming in pairs or trios. One Humpback Whale, who looked smaller than a full grown whale, swam close by on our right hand side. The whale made circles – perhaps trying to coral some yummy fish. Eventually, the whale swam further away from us and we explored more whales. One pair swimming our whale included a very large individual. With a look at the flukes, we could identify it as BCZ0180 “Monarch”. Monarch and his companion made several close by swims showing off his large size. His companion, known as CS631 “Two Spot”, showed off its beautiful white pectoral flippers and white flukes. It was such a joy to watch these whales.
While watching the Humpbacks, the captain received a call. Orcas had been spotted, but they were headed away from us. We said our goodbyes to the Humpback Whales, and picked up speed to reach the area that the Orcas were reported. We arrived to the area, just off shore of Becher bay. Other boats were in the area and we were all in search of the reported Orcas. Our whale-patience paid off as a large male was spotted. The Orca males can have a dorsal fin reaching 6 feet tall, making them the easiest to spot first. Not long after the large male was spotted, more family members were spotted. They were identified as the T65A family group. As soon as the male caught up with his family, the race began. The Orcas picked up speed traveling about 13 knots (14.96 mph). As they traveled, the Orcas were bringing their bodies out of the water in what we call porpoising behavior. With “Flight of the Valkyries” playing on the speakers, we watched in awe as the Orcas traveled with this behavior until we were offshore of Secretary Island (Donaldson Island). Suddenly the Orcas slowed and were joined by another Orca pod, identified as T37A’s. With the gathering of of the pods, we got to see splashing, rolls and even a breach. One of the males had a quick romance with one of the females. We eventually had to turn back towards Port Angeles, but everyone was left with memories of an Epic Whale watching day
~Tamara

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