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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Western Prince Trip - L2s in Haro Strait

Today I was out on the Western Prince. This morning members of all three pods had been in the area, and they had started traveling north towards the edge of our range. Luckily, we had reports of a small group of L-Pod whales that was still on the west side of San Juan Island. It turns out it was the L2s - mother L2 Grace and her two sons L78 Gaia and L88 Wavewalker. I only saw 3 whales myself, but others said there were four, with the fourth perhaps being L87 Onyx.

When we first got on scene the whales were right up along the shoreline several hundred yards inshore of us. They were swimming slowly south and taking long dives. Suddenly, they veered straight offshore towards us. We backed out of their way, then cut our engines as they dove down again. We waited...and waited...unsure of where they would come up next. While L2 and L78 had headed back inshore, we were surprised when L88 Wavewalker, a 16 year old male, surfaced about 75 yards off our stern! He then proceeded to swim right along the port side of the boat, surfacing once right alongside the boat.

It is absolutely one of the coolest things to be able to see a whale swimming underwater. Usually you can just make out the white markings on the whale, which stand out better against the dark water background. From a photographer's perspective it's nice, too, because you can see right where the whale is going to come up! Check out this sequence of photos of Wavewalker surfacing. The third and fourth ones are full frame shots, that's how close he was!


Dave Miller said...

I just discovered your site and really have enjoyed reading about your exploits seeing some of your wonderful photography.

I spend most of my time in the SF Bay Area and do some hiking and photography for Backpacker Magazine. I keep track of my exploits on my blog,

I am heading up to Victoria BC in a couple of weeks (July 11-16). It looks like you focus on the San Juan Islands but I was wondering if you have any recommendations for Orca viewing in the Victoria area. I see a lot of marketing hype on tours, but I would love to hear from someone with some knowledge of the subjects and area.

I appreciate your time. Thanks so much.

Dave Miller

Monika said...

Dave - Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting! I look forward to checking out your blog, as it sounds like you have a pretty awesome job yourself. As far as whale-watching from Vancouver Island, I highly recommend Ocean Eco-Ventures. They leave out of Cowichan Bay, which is a bit north of Victoria, but I think it is well worth the trip in terms of the service provided and the compassion shown for the whales, wildlife, and whole ecosystem. Hopefully you'll be making some posts about your trip on your blog!

Warren Baker said...

Just breathtaking! I love its silvery glistening skin. Keep up you good work with these animals Monika.

Monika said...

Warren - My heart was pounding for quite a while after this encounter!