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Monday, September 28, 2009

(Almost) End of Season Crew Trip

While we'll still be running whale and wildlife viewing trips for another month, yesterday felt like the last day of summer in a lot of ways. We've switched to our fall schedule now and as of today the weather feels cooler, windier, damper, and overall just a lot more like autumn. Yesterday afternoon, however, was a full boat trip aboard the Western Prince and we enjoyed K and L-Pod whales in the warm sunshine and calm waters off the southwest side of San Juan Island.

When we got on scene the whales were very spread out, and going on very long dives as they foraged making viewing difficult. By the time we left, however, they were grouping up and getting social. We had a beautiful close pass by L86 Surprise and her two offspring L106 Pooka and new calf L112. Then we watched another group of four whales (I couldn't ID them because they were backlit) roll around at the surface, including a young juvenile who spyhopped with a fish in its mouth!

As soon a we got back to the harbor it was time for our annual end-of-season crew trip. What, you may ask, do a bunch of whale enthusiasts do to celebrate the winding down of the whale-watching season? Go whale-watching, of course! We all hopped aboard our zodiac-style boat the Western Explorer and cruised around San Juan Island enjoying the zippy boat ride and several groups of Dall's porpoise before catching up with the whales again. Below are some photo highlights from the beautiful sunset encounter with part of K-Pod and part of L-Pod.

Two whales surfacing just off of South Beach with Mt. Baker in the background

The whales have been splitting up into all sorts of different groups all season long, but I think I finally pieced together who was out there yesterday. K-Pod split up, with part of them going north and part of them staying south where I saw them. I think we had the majority of K-Pod (minus the K11s), but I only saw for sure K21 Cappuccino, K26 Lobo, and K16 Opus.

A whale silhouetted by the late afternoon light with the Olympic Mountains in the background

As far as L-Pod whales go, we had at least the following L-Pod family groups: the L55s (8 whales), the L72s (3 whales), and the L26s (3 whales). This was awesome because these are probably among the rarest family groups I encounter since they spend so much of their time out in the open ocean, so its always exciting to see them. Below is L95 Nigel, a 13 year-old male that looks like he's just starting to "sprout", meaning his fin is growing up to be the tall, six-foot dorsal of the full adult male:

L95 Nigel

After finding a nice group of whales, we just cut our engine and soaked in the sight of the whales slowly moving offshore. The lighting was spectacular: everything looked golden, except for the waters that looked almost blue-purple.

K26 Lobo

All too soon, it was time to head in before it got dark. On the way home we were treated to a view of the sun setting beyond the Cattle Point Lighthouse:


julie said...

what an amazing way to bring the summer season to a close. this seems to have been a memorable year for watching these beautiful beasts!

Warren Baker said...

That last pic, is a real cracker Monika, well done. Batten down the hatches - autumn is coming!

Monika said...

Julie - As always, it has flown by this season! It was a slow start this year but you're right that there have been some very memorable encounters.

Warren - That may have been my last nice summer sunset as autumn is definitely here! It's chilly and pouring rain at the moment!

Carol said...

Beautiful scenes of orcas! I hope to see them like that someday...I'll have to check out your photography book on them, too.