It wasn’t long before we reached Flattop Island and got our first looks at Nyssa L84 as he surfaced to breathe. Then Ino L54 and her offspring, Coho L108 and Keta L117, popped up nearby. They were all traveling toward Limestone Point, San Juan Island with some occasional milling about in their search for salmon. Wave Walker L88 was the last to appear, his fin slicing through the water as he caught up with the others. We left them still pointed at San Juan Island.
I was able to see the L54s again while out on a friend’s boat on 11/10/17. They had joined up with K pod and were in Admiralty Inlet. We found them northbound and very spread out off of Possession Point. We located Cali K34 traveling by himself first. Closer to shore on the Hansville side of the inlet, we could see Tika K33 and a few other whales. Ino L54 and Nyssa L84 appeared soon after. Both milled about for a few minutes before continuing on north together. Keta L117 hurried past to catch up to them.
As we slowly moved closer to shore, the other whales spread out near Tika K33 turned out to be Sequim K12, Spock K20, Cappuccino K21, Scoter K25, Lobo K26, Deadhead K27, Sonata K35, Rainshadow K37, Comet K38, and Coho L108. As we passed Double Bluff, some of these whales grouped up with whales we had seen previously (Cali K34, Ino L54, Nyssa L84 etc.), and some that we had not (Opus K16, Sekiu K22, Yoda K36, Ripple K44 etc.). Lots of excited tail slapping and splashing ensued. Sequim K12 breached twice. The grouping only lasted for a few minutes before the whales split up and fanned out across the inlet again.
We then spotted Wave Walker L88 traveling along the Whidbey Island shoreline and as we slowly headed his direction, we found Ino L54, Coho L108, Keta L117, and Cali K34 again. Coho L108 and Cali K34 were fooling around together. Nyssa L84 and Wave Walker L88 brought up the rear. They passed us by but while Nyssa L84 went off to forage, Wave Walker L88 joined up with Keta L117 to socialize and play. It only took a few minutes for Kelp K42 to join the party too. Keta L117 breached, tail slapped, and dorsal fin slapped multiple times with excitement. We left K pod and the L54s still spread out and northbound of off Bush Point.
My next orca encounter was on 11/16/17. With reports of J pod southbound in Haro Strait, my friends and I headed out on their boat. Our first whales were Slick J16, Shachi J19, Echo J42, and Scarlet J50 and they were right off of Kellet Bluff, Henry Island. They did a bit of milling about there before continuing south.
J pod was very spread out so we headed offshore into the middle of Haro Strait to look for more whales. Cookie J38 was spotted traveling by himself soon after, then Mike J26 and Blackberry J27 appeared over near Kellet Bluff so we headed back. Blackberry J27 stalled out and chased a salmon for a few minutes before he continued south. While we were watching him, Princess Angeline J17, Moby J44, Star J46, and Kiki J53 passed by and were also doing some of their own foraging.
We could see more fins out near Kelp Reefs so we headed over and found Se-Yi’-Chn J45 and Onyx L87 traveling together. With sunset about to commence, we started heading back towards the dock but found Moby J44 and Star J46 foraging outside of Open Bay along the way.
On the afternoon of 11/25/17, reports came in of marine mammal-eating transient orcas in Haro Strait. My friends and I were soon on scene near Kelp Reefs. It was the T2Cs and they were in a very celebratory mood. They likely had recently made a kill and very excited. I lost count of how many spy hops, aerial scans, tail slaps, inverted tail slaps, dorsal fins slaps, breaches, belly flops, leaps, and back dives.
For most of the time, T2C1 and T2C2 trailed behind the rest of the family. T2C1 could have been keeping his younger brother company. T2C2 likely has severe scoliosis of the spine so he usually moves slowly and trails behind the rest of his family. He may not even be able to join in hunts. Luckily, his family appears to be taking good care of him. It was obvious during the encounter that his family would often pause and wait for him to catch up. They were also swimming with the current, which would have been a lot easier on T2C2. We left the close-knit family as they neared Baynes Channel.
On 12/2/17, we had an encounter with J pod in San Juan Channel. A few days later on 12/7/17, we encountered J and K pod in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Both of these encounters can be viewed here on the Center for Whale Research’s encounters page. Who will be encountered next?
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