On the morning of 8/15/13, L pod was on the West side of San Juan Island and J and K pod were inbound through the Strait of Juan De Fuca. Aboard "Natsilane" of San Juan Island Whale & Wildlife Tours we headed out of Friday Harbor and were with the orcas soon after. The first whales we saw was a group of four made up Mike J26, Racer L72, Fluke L105, and Se-Yi'-Chm J45.
Mike was acting quite frisky towards Racer, chasing her around while on his back with his penis flying around.
All around us I could see members of J, K and L pod spread out. As we headed back to the dock I got shots Crewser L92, Lulu L53, Wave Walker L88, Samish J14, Suttles J40, and others.
Later that evening I caught a ride on the "Sea Lion" of San Juan Safaris, and we all headed back out to see the orcas in the sunset. The superpod was spread out for miles, most of the orcas being in small socializing groups around Hein Bank as they slowly made their way back to the West side of San Juan Island. The first orca I identified was Cappuccino K21, who was off by himself. Many of the socializing groups were females accompanied by a flirtatious male.
We then came upon Nigel L95 who was flirting with Polaris J28, who had her daughter Star J46 with her.
There was another group not to far away so we went over to see who they were too. It was Onyx L97, Calypso L94, and her daughter Cousteau L113. Onyx was not attempting to mate with Calypso but instead was just calmly swimming along beside her. He then turned away and headed North, probably to join Granny J2 and Spieden J8, who he has been traveling with ever since her lost his other adoptive mothers in K pod and his actual mother is L pod.
Off in the distance we could see a bundle of orcas in resting formation. We slowly motored over and I identified Mega L41, Matia L77, L119, Ocean Sun L25, Spirit L22, and Solstice L89. I never saw Spirit's other son Skana L79 during this encounter, or during any of the other few times I have seen his family recently.
As the resting group swam past, another socializing group came up from behind us. It was Nigel, Polaris, and Star again, but Blackberry J27 had joined them. The two boys paused and began to get very playful, tactile, and even frisky. It is pretty common to see a group of males get together and do this type of thing.
As the sun began to disappear from view we said goodbye to the orcas, thanked them for such an amazing evening, and headed back to the dock at Friday Harbor.
Please do not use my photos without permission. Just ask :)
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.