While L pod left on the night of 7/19/13, K pod spent the night up at the Fraser River in Canada before coming back down to San Juan Island the next morning. The water was super choppy and the tide was flooding as the orcas fought their way South against the waves and current. Aboard the "Odyssey" of San Juan Excursions, I was able to get some photos of the males of K pod, as they were easier to spot within the waves because of their tall dorsal fins. Scoter K25 breached a few times inshore of us, right off of Lime Kiln State Park, on the West side of San Juan Island while Lobo K26, and Tika K33 surfaced high out of the water to breathe.
I was able to spot every member from K pod except for Opus K16, Sonata K35, and Cappuccino K21, which is normal because these three orcas that will sometimes split off from K pod and do their own thing. Overnight, K pod left for the open ocean, an indicator that there is not enough Chinook salmon here to sustain them like there once was historically. After we over fished the Chinook here, destroyed/polluted habitat around their spawning rivers and dammed the rivers up, among other things, we hardly left any for the orcas to eat. Hopefully we can all reverse these actions together.
Melisa Pinnow grew up on San Juan Island in Washington State. She recently graduated from Evergreen State College with a Bachelor of Science in marine biology and ornithology. She is a certified marine naturalist for San Juan Excursions and also works at the Center for Whale Research. It is her hope that sharing her orca encounters will inspire others to love and protect these magnificent creatures for generations to come.