For any use of my photos, please contact me at monika.wieland (at) gmail (dot) com

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Hanging with Whales at Kellett Bluffs

It was another summer-like October day in the San Juans, with a full boat aboard the Western Prince as we headed out in the sunshine to see members of all three pods on the west side of San Juan Island. We first met up with the whales near Lime Kiln lighthouse where they were grouped up and traveling close to shore heading north. We moved up to Kellett Bluffs further north where the whales often pull a little more offshore, and basically just hung out there as different groups of whales slowly passed us by.

First, not surprisingly as they're often in the lead, were J1 Ruffles and J2 Granny. Here is Ruffles:

The whales seemed to be in "travel mode" until some of them started doing tail slaps:

Then we had an amazing encounter with J26 Mike and his younger sister J36 Alki. They were circling off to the side of the boat, as they stopped to do a bit of foraging. Here is Mike as he passed off our bow. He's got a distinct open saddle patch, which makes him pretty easy to identify:

He lifted his head out of the water a few times before arching down on a dive. It's not often you see an orca in this position:

Here's Alki on the left and Mike on the right, circling around and foraging:

Mike did a couple of SPECTACULAR lunges. He nearly cleared the water on this one. It was difficult to know where he was going to come up next, so getting him centered in the photo was impossible. I'm still pleased with these shots that, if not perfect, capture the action:

One thing that was really amazing was how little of a splash he created when he re-entered the water. When a whale breaches, the splash is huge. Today, while foraging, he dove nose-first which helped him to enter the water "cleanly". They must have caught something because Jeanne, who was also on board, said in some of her photos she could make out blood on the surface!

No comments: