I was eager to find out if a 32-foot fiberglass replica of a
killer whale could scare off a huge number of sea lions crowded
together on the docks in Astoria, Ore.
I kept telling my wife Sue, “It’s not going to work” — and I had
not the slightest idea that the motorized orca might capsize during
its attempt to frighten the persistent sea lions.
About 1,000 people were on hand last night when a human operator
drove the orca toward the sea lions, according to Associated Press
reporter Terrence Petty. A passing cargo ship created a wake that
rushed toward the shore and capsized the fake killer whale. And
that was that for now. You can read the story in the
I understand that the fake killer whale might be deployed again
against the sea lions in August, when their numbers are expected to
be high again. I still doubt that it will work — unless the
operators can find a way to aggressively approach the sea lions and
stay with the effort for an extended time. It might help to play
recordings of transient killer whales — the kind that eat marine
mammals. But my understanding is that transients don’t make many
sounds when they are in their hunting mode.
I readily admit that I’m not a killer whale expert, but let me
tell you why I believe that any sort of limited effort with fake
orcas will fail. It’s not that sea lions don’t fear transients. In
fact, if sea lions can be convinced that they are being approached
by a real killer whale, their fear level could be quite high.
I’ve heard from homeowners who live on Hood Canal, Dyes Inlet
and other shorelines that when transient killer whales are around,
seals and sea lions head for shore, climb up on docks and even
attempt to board boats to get away from them.
So I don’t know if the fiberglass orca will fool the sea lions
in Astoria, but does anyone think that these marine mammals are
crazy enough to jump into the water if they believe a killer is
there waiting for them?
The young killer whale born into J pod three weeks ago still
appears to be doing well, according to Dave Ellifrit of the Center
for Whale Research, who observed the calf when her pod came through
the San Juan Islands on Monday.
In his written notes, Dave said the calf, designated J-50, was
staying close to J-16, a 43-year-old female named “Slick.”
Meanwhile, Slick’s daughter, 16-year-old J-36 or Alki, remained
some distance away.
Uncertainty has surrounded the question of whether J-16 is the
mother or the grandmother of the new calf. If she’s the mother, it
will be the first time that an orca over 40 has been known to give
birth, at least among the three pods that frequent Puget Sound.
“While all the J16’s traveled together, J36 was consistently the
farthest of the group from J50, so whatever doubts remained about
J16 being the mother are about gone.”
Ken Balcomb, who founded the Center for Whale Research, was not
with Dave during the encounter. Ken agrees that current evidence
points to J-16 being the mom, but he is still not totally
“I’m staying open,” he told me. “J-16 is certainly the primary
There remains a little matter of the “rake marks” on the back of
the baby orca — most likely caused when an adult whale used its
teeth to pull the newborn from the birth canal. A 16-year-old
female might need some help during delivery, Ken explained, and the
grandmother was the likely one to assist. Such help probably would
not be needed for an older mom, he said.
I thought that the proof of motherhood would come when we knew
who was nursing the baby. While nobody has directly observed any
nursing behavior over the past three weeks, the baby is fattening
up and staying near enough to J-16 to allow such things to
But Ken says it is possible that J-16 could be lactating — even
if she is the grandmother. It’s happened in older pilot whales, he
“It is not beyond the realm of possibility that a grandmother
could play the nurse-maid role,” he said.
There will be no certainty about the lineage, he said, until
genetic testing is performed, and that could take years — assuming
the calf survives. Such tests could come as the result of fecal
sampling or a skin biopsy performed by approved researchers
following the whales, he said.
Meanwhile, since the calf was born, J pod has been moving around
the inland waterways and well up into the Strait of Georgia in
Canada, as revealed by a satellite transmitter carried by J-27, a
24-year-old named Blackberry.
A couple times in the past two weeks, the whales went through
the Strait of Juan de Fuca and into the Pacific Ocean. But each
time they quickly turned around and came back,
Last night, Mark Malleson of Prince of Whales, a whale-watching
company, observed J pod along with K pod spread out in the Strait
of Juan de Fuca near Sheringham Point near the south tip of
Vancouver Island, according to his report posted on Orca Network’s Facebook
So far today, I have not heard any more reports, and the next
satellite data won’t be available until later.
The succession of maps on this page shows the travels of J pod
since they touched the outer coast 10 days ago. (Click on the
images to enlarge.)
After thinking it over, Ken Balcomb of the Center for Whale
Researchers says it is likely that J-16 is the grandmother of the
new calf, not the mother.
J-16, known as Slick, could have been babysitting the young
whale when the two were spotted by observers. If so, the mom is
probably J-36, a 15-year-old female named Alki, who was following a
few miles behind at the time.
The pattern of older whales taking care of young relatives has
been seen many times before, occasionally even with newborns, Ken
told me. The mother may have needed some time for rest and recovery
after giving birth, especially if it was a tough delivery, he
The baby had evident scratches, known as “rake marks,” on its
back and dorsal fin caused by the teeth of another killer whale,
Ken said. He believes it could be an indication that the
grandmother assisted with the birth.
Whoever the mother is, the baby’s condition indicates that it
has been nursing, and that’s a good sign.
If J-16 is the mother, she would be the oldest known orca to
give birth among the three Southern Resident pods. If it is J-36,
then the young mom could need help from her own mother.
If J-36 is the mom, then she should be spending most of her time
with her new baby. That could come within a few days or up to a
couple weeks, Ken told me. Observers are making a special effort to
see who is spending time with whom over the next few days.
“This is an interesting little mystery,” Ken said. “If the
whales do their part, we should be able to figure it out.”
Tracking them could be made easier because of a satellite tag
attached to another member of J pod — J-27, a 24-year-old male
named Blackberry. The barbed tag was attached to the whale’s dorsal
fin in open waters about equidistant from Sequim, Whidbey Island,
Victoria and the south end of San Juan Island. Since then, the
whales have moved north into Canada. I’ll soon have a separate blog
post on the tracking study.
A newborn killer whale, reported Tuesday by the Center for Whale
Research, was identified as the offspring of 42-year-old J-16 — the
oldest known orca to ever give birth among the three Puget Sound
“No other female has given birth at over 42 years of age in the
four decades of demographic field studies of the Southern Resident
orcas,” according to a statement from
Orca Network. “J-16 was not expected to be carrying a calf due
to her advanced age.”
It’s odd how the circumstances have worked out. The birth of
this new calf, designated J-50, becomes the first major news story
about the Southern Residents since we heard about the death of
J-32, named Rhapsody. See Water Ways for
Dec. 7 and a later report on
Rhapsody was only 18 years old when she died carrying an unborn
calf. Before her death, experts had high hopes that Rhapsody would
live long and produce many babies. If she had ever given birth
before, her offspring died before they were noticed by
So it is that we have the death of a young killer whale with an
unborn calf and now a new birth to an older whale thought to be
beyond reproductive age. Let’s hope this new baby orca survives,
lives long and contributes to the endangered killer whale
J-16, named Slick, has six known offspring, including the new
baby. Three others are still alive: J-26, a male named Mike, born
in 1991; J-36, a female named Alki, born in 1999; and J-42, a
female named Echo, born in 2007. The deceased offspring are a male
that died at 14 years of age in 2010 and a baby orca that died in
2011 after living about a month.
I’d like to offer something quite different for this week’s
“Amusing Monday.” It’s a 19-minute video featuring Ingrid Visser,
one of the world’s leading experts on killer whales.
One of the highlights of the video is the rescue of an orca
imperiled with a rope and buoy caught around her tail. Without the
rescue, which begins at 10:25 into the video, the whale probably
would have died. If you continue watching, you’ll see shots taken
from a camera on the whale’s dorsal fin, giving you a glimpse into
the life of a killer whale.
Ingrid’s base of operations is New Zealand, but she has been to
Puget Sound numerous times, as well as many other places where
orcas reside. I’ve always admired her for her personal approach to
understanding orcas throughout the world.
The video provides an insight into Ingrid’s life, research and
interests. It’s appropriate that it begins with her discussing
orcas with a group of young students. For more information, check
out the Facebook
page for Orca Research Trust or the related webpage for
The video was produced by a team of photographers to introduce
the new high-speed, high-definition GoPro
camera called HERO4.The video was the sixth in a series called
“The Adventure of Life in 4K.”
Like many people, I was shocked and saddened by the death of
J-32, an 18-year-old female orca who had offered an avenue of hope
for the recovery of the endangered killer whale population in Puget
We now know from yesterday’s necropsy, that Rhapsody, as she is
called, was pregnant at the time of her death.
“Yes, she was pregnant, near-term, 80 percent or plus,” Ken
Balcomb told me last light after participating in the examination
of the body near Courtenay, B.C.
The actual cause of death is not yet certain, but it is likely
that the fetus died in the uterus, resulting in a necrotic
condition that eventually broke down the mother’s tissues,
according to Ken, founder of the Center for Whale Research. There
were no signs of trauma that would suggest injury of any kind, he
Dr. Stephen Raverty, a veterinary pathologist in charge of the
necropsy, removed J-32’s uterus with the intact fetus inside. Dr.
Rafferty told me that he plans to take images of the fetus in utero
tomorrow before continuing the examination. He said he would be
unable to provide any information until he receives approval from
his client, the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
As in other post-mortem examinations of killer whales, experts
will examine tissues, blood and body fluids in multiple ways to
gauge the general health of the animal as well as the cause of
death. The Southern Resident pods — J, K and L — are known to carry
some of the highest loads of toxic chemicals of any marine mammals
in the world. The whales may also undergo nutritional stress
because of a shortage of their primary prey, chinook salmon.
The last sighting of the animal was Nov. 29. Her body was found
floating near Courtenay on Thursday, Dec. 4. She was a “remarkably
small” killer whale, about 15 feet long, Ken said. Females normally
grow to between 16 and 23 feet.
Rhapsody was born in 1996. Her mother, J-20 or Ewok, died when
she was 2 years old. The young whale was then raised by her Aunt,
J-22 or Oreo. Rhapsody is survived by her aunt and two cousins.
Orca Network’s news release about the death.)
At age 18, she was at the beginning of her reproductive life,
with a potential to add several babies to the dwindling population
of Southern Residents, now at 77 animals. J pod is down to 24
orcas, with only a few reproductive females at this time.
Ken Balcomb said he hopes Saturday’s necropsy will reveal
whether J-32 had ever been pregnant before, since killer whales
typically become fertile around age 12 and often give birth by age
15. Her mother was 13 when she was born, Ken noted.
When the ovaries expel an egg, it leaves a little white scar
tissue behind. If the egg is fertilized and grows, the scar tissue
is notably larger, Ken explained.
An average female gives birth every five years, Ken said. That
rate should be adding three or four calves to the Southern Resident
population each year.
“Three years ago, I predicted that they should be having 19
babies by now,” Ken said.
Instead, the population is declining, with no surviving calves
born last year or this year. A baby born to L-86 in September of
this year was reporting missing a little more than a month
Rhapsody was the third adult to die this year. Also missing and
presumed dead are L-53, a 37-year-old female known as Lulu, and
L-100, a 13-year-old male known as Indigo.
Howard Garrett and Susan Berta of
Orca Network may have spoken for many of us with this comment:
“We cannot express how tragic this loss is for this struggling,
precariously small, family of resident orcas of the Salish
A seven-week-old baby orca born to our Southern Resident pods
was reported missing and presumed dead today. This was the newborn
orca who brought so much hope and excitement to our area, being the
first reported birth in more than two years.
When I called Ken Balcomb this morning, he was in a “subjective”
state of mind, as he put it. Ken, of the Center for Whale Research,
has been keeping track of the three Southern Resident pods since
1976, and he’s clearly worried that these whales may be headed for
As we talked on the phone, Ken was peering through the large
windows of his home on San Juan Island and watching a large purse
seine vessel scooping up chum salmon and possibly other species as
“I look at this every day, and I’ve seen this for almost 40
years,” Ken said. “There is no letup on the human part. Virtually
no fish are getting past the outlet. We know the Fraser River runs
are in poor shape, and our management doesn’t seem to take any kind
of ecosystem approach.”
Salmon biologists set the sport and commercial fishing seasons
based on an estimate of the number of fish returning. They update
that estimate during the season based on harvest numbers caught in
“Whatever they are doing, it obviously has not worked, since
we’ve seen run after run not doing well,” Ken said. “I get
subjective about it and wonder when our society is going to do
something to get more prey (for the whales).”
Ken said there was much hope for the seven-week-old orca,
designated L-120, the third known offspring of the 23-year-old
mother designated L-86.
“I was optimistic,” he told me. “When we first saw the baby, it
had a squished-looking head, but even human babies can be born with
a flattened head.
“Within a week, it was filling out well and was energetic,” he
continued, and there was no reason to believe the calf would
The Southern Residents are known to bear a heavy burden of toxic
chemicals, but transient killer whales are even more contaminated.
The difference may be that transients, which eat marine mammals,
may be getting enough food. Was the orca mom unable to nurse her
baby? Did the toxic chemicals cause an immune deficiency? Or was
there another problem? We’ll probably never know.
All three orca pods were probably out in the ocean when the
youngster disappeared. The mom was seen with other whales on
Friday, Saturday and Sunday without the calf — something that would
not happen if the baby were alive.
L-120 was the third calf born to L-86. Her second calf, L-112,
washed up dead at Long Beach in February 2010. After much
investigation, researchers concluded that L-112 had died of blunt
force trauma, but what caused the injury was never determined. Ken
suspects some kind of explosive detonation, although that cause was
discounted by investigators.
Howard Garrett of Orca Network said the orcas have faced a
shortage of food, toxic chemicals, routine shooting with guns and a
series of captures that depleted the population.
“We haven’t treated these magnificent orcas well at all,” Howie
said in a news release. “As a society we are not successfully
restoring this orca community, despite the many warnings and legal
“Our challenge is clear: Bountiful salmon runs must be restored
and protected or we won’t see resident orcas in the Salish Sea in
coming years,” he added.
The latest population count places the total number at 78, the
lowest number since 1986, according to records by the Center of
Unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly called drones, could play an
increasing role in killer whale studies, according to Brad Hanson,
a researcher with NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center who has
been studying Puget Sound’s orcas for years.
Brad said a plan to use UAVs (he doesn’t like “drones”) has been
on the drawing board for several years. Unmanned aircraft can fly
over the whales far more cheaply than a full-size helicopter, which
has been used in the past. The small aircraft also may be able to
come in close for biological samples with less disturbance to the
whales than when operating from a research boat.
“I’ve been looking at this for a long time,” Brad told me. “We
have it in our (Endangered Species Act) permit to be able to use a
UAS (unmanned aircraft system).
Remote-controlled aircraft have been used by researchers to
study seals and penguins in the Arctic and to estimate their
populations with less disturbance than approaching the animals on
the ground. They’ve also been used to count birds in remote
In August, NOAA and Vancouver Aquarium researchers teamed up to
test the use of a remote-controlled hexacopter as they observed
Northern Resident killer whales in British Columbia. Mounted with a
high-resolution camera, the copter captured some amazing videos and
still pictures, including those on this page. See also
One can learn a lot from a good aerial view of a killer whale,
including general body condition, Brad told me. From a boat on the
water, it is often difficult to tell if an orca is healthy,
underweight or pregnant. From above, a whale’s girth is easier to
Researchers involved the British Columbia study — including John
Durban of NOAA’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center and Lance
Barrett-Lennard of Vancouver Aquarium — identified several females
who seemed to be pregnant.
They also spotted two whales that seemed emaciated. Those
animals later went missing and are presumed dead, confirming that
they were in poor health. What is not evident from photos, however,
is the cause of the problem, Brad Hanson said. Were the whales
suffering from disease, injury or another problem that caused them
to lose weight, or was it simply a lack of food?
Aerial photos also can be used to measure the length of a whale
and, over time, determine the growth rate at various periods in its
Brad said the ultimate goal is to develop health assessments for
the Southern Residents, listed as “endangered” under the federal
Endangered Species Act. A lot of technical details need to be
worked out, he said, but the plan is to use unmanned aircraft to
collect breath and fecal samples from the whales.
A breath sample is the next best thing to a blood sample, Brad
told me, and fecal samples provide information about stress
hormones, potential pathogens and other things.
“If you tied that in with imaging, we might be able to build
individual health profiles and begin to understand when something
is going wrong,” Hanson said.
Currently, breath samples are taken by driving a boat alongside
the whales and holding out a pole with an apparatus on the end.
Fecal samples are taken by following the whales and sifting feces
from the water.
If a small helicopter flown from a boat some distance away can
be used, the result would be less intrusive than a boat coming near
In the study in British Columbia, the general goal was to keep
the UAV at least 100 feet above the whales. The study also included
some closer movements to test the reaction of the whales. No
obvious changes in behavior were noticed, Brad said.
One permit still is needed for Hanson to operate a UAV in
Washington state. The Federal Aviation Administration must issue a
certificate of authorization, or COA, which spells out limitations
of the flight to avoid other aircraft operating in the area.
The Canadian experiment received similar permits from Fisheries
and Oceans Canada and Transport Canada. The aircraft was an APH-22
marine hexacopter built for NOAA by Aerial Imaging Solutions.
Ironically, amateurs in the United States are allowed to operate
unmanned aircraft in some areas without permits. But flying around
wildlife could create unanticipated problems for the animals. And
anyone operating around endangered whales could be in violation of
other state and federal laws — such as the Endangered Species Act
or Marine Mammal Protection Act — if they fly below 1,000 feet.
Erich Hoyt, who has been enjoying adventures with killer whales
and other sea creatures since the early 1970s, will share his
understanding of the underwater world during a series of
presentations from British Columbia to Northern California.
The tour begins today on Saturna Island in British Columbia. For
the full schedule, visit The
Whale Trail website.
Erich has a rare talent. He is both an engaging writer as well
as an experienced scientific researcher. His first book, “Orca: A
Whale Called Killer,” is essential reading for orca supporters. His
understanding of the oceans has led him into the field of
conservation, seeking greater protections for marine habitats
throughout the world.
As Erich prepared for his upcoming tour, sponsored by The Whale Trail, I had the
privilege to visit with him for more than an hour via Skype from
his home in Bridport, England.
We discussed how people’s attitudes in the U.S. and Canada have
changed since 1973. That was when Erich’s curiosity was sparked by
encounters with Northern Resident orca pods in British Columbia,
where he had moved from the U.S. with his family.
Those were the days when little was known about killer whales.
Orcas were still being captured in the Northwest and sent to
aquariums throughout the world. Since then, we have learned how
those first captures had a serious effect on the close-knit orca
communities. Continuing threats today include pollution and a lack
of chinook salmon, the primary prey of orcas.
In 1999, Erich helped start a research program in Russian to
bring the same kind of scientific scrutiny and conservation
concerns to killer whales on the opposite side of the ocean. That
program, involving Russian scientists, revealed the presence of two
types of orcas, those that eat marine mammals and those that eat
fish — similar to what we call “transients” and “residents” in the
Orca communities identified so far in Russia range in size from
50 to 600 animals. As we’ve seen in the Northwest, cultures — such
as vocal dialects and feeding habits — are handed down from mother
An awareness of orcas, as seen in the U.S. and Canada, has not
reached Russia or many places in the world, Hoyt says. Russia still
allows killer whales to be captured, and last year seven orcas were
taken from the Sea of Okhotsk. Earlier captures in Russia were
especially disheartening to the researchers who had come to know
the individual animals taken from their families.
During his presentation, Erich will show a brief video of some
of the Russian capture efforts.
In countries such as Russia, China and Japan, new marine
aquariums are being built all the time, with orcas and beluga
whales as the star attractions. That’s in stark contrast to the
situation in the U.S., where a growing awareness of wild orcas
along with the film “Blackfish” has helped change people’s
attitudes about keeping large marine mammals in captivity.
Erich told me that he would like to see more people around the
world come to know individual orcas by name, as we do here in the
“Look at how far things have come, from when we didn’t know
anything about them to when we start to see them as our friends,”
About a week ago, I reported that NOAA Fisheries had undertaken
a yearlong review to determine if the “critical habitat” for
Southern Resident killer whales should be extended down the
Washington and Oregon coasts. See
Kitsap Sun, April 24 (subscription). A special consideration
for protecting the whales from undue noise was part of the petition
from the Center for Biological Diversity.
Hoyt agreed that sound should be given special consideration by
the federal government.
“Rob Williams (a Canadian researcher) talks about acoustic
refuges,” Erich noted. “It is a challenging issue, because whales
and dolphins can hear so well… We will need much larger marine
protected areas if we really want to protect them…”
A general increase in noise levels in the ocean can lead to
habituation by marine mammals, he noted. As they grow accustomed to
louder sounds, the animals may adjust — but how will that affect
their ability to communicate and find prey? What are the prospects
for their long-term survival under more noisy conditions?
And then there is the special issue of mid-frequency sonar,
which can cause temporary or even permanent hearing loss for some
species. Navies that use sonar must be extra careful to avoid
impacts, he said.
Erich and I also talked about L-112, the young female orca that
washed up dead near Long Beach about the time the Royal Canadian
Navy was conducting exercises far to the north. Investigators were
unable to determine what caused the “blunt-force” injury to the
animal. But they ruled out explosives being used by the Navy,
because the currents were in the wrong direction and the distance
was too great.
“This brings to mind the crash of the Malaysian jetliner,” Erich
said. “You know something unusual happened, but it defies almost
any explanation you bring up. Scientists tend to come up with
explanations that are the simplest … but they should be careful not
to rule anything out.”
Killer whale researcher Ken Balcomb has suggested that L-112’s
mother may have carried her dead daughter to the area where she was
found. Hoyt said he has personally observed a female white-sided
dolphin carrying her dead offspring for more than two hours in
“It was really touching. We didn’t know at first if the baby was
dead. We were not very close. But eventually the mother just let go
of the baby.”
Erich expects mixed audiences at his upcoming appearances — from
people who know more about certain issues than he does to people
who are dragged to the event by a friend.
One message will be that people can watch whales from shore
without causing them any disturbance. That’s the mission of The
Whale Trail, the organization sponsoring Erich’s trip to locations
where killer whales may be seen from shore.
I told Erich about my first adventures with killer whales during
the fall of 1997, when 19 orcas visited Dyes Inlet. See “The Dyes
Inlet Whales 10 Years Later.” One of my messages at that time
was to encourage people to watch from vantage points in Tracyton,
Chico and Silverdale.
“Land-based whale watching is really close to my heart,” Erich
told me. “It’s the kind of thing that’s important for the community
… and a fantastic way to get to know wildlife.”
Hoyt’s appearances in Washington state include this Wednesday in
Port Townsend, Thursday in Port Angeles and May 18 in Seattle.
Whale Trail website for the full schedule.
John Buchanan of Squamish, British Columbia, was in the right
place at the right time when a group of transient killer whales
mixed it up with hundreds of fleeing white-sided dolphins.
John said it appeared that the orcas had formed a line to herd
the dolphins into shallow water in Departure Bay near Nanaimo.
“The only way they could escape was going through the orcas,” he
told me. “I was wondering if they would swim right into the ferry.
The ferry may have made the escape a little narrower for them.”
John happened to be on the ferry from Horseshoe Bay in West
Vancouver to Departure Bay on Vancouver Island when the wild
encounter occurred on Monday.
“I was just traveling on the ferry to meet someone at Nanaimo,”
said Buchanan, who is active in the environmental groups, including
Squamish Stream Keepers. “I always have my camera close by.
“We were just coming into Departure Bay. Someone spotted the
orcas, then the water just exploded with all these dolphins in the
bay. The orcas had them pinned in.
“I bet there was all kinds of action going on under the water,”
he said. “It was spectacular, especially when one orca was breaking
in one direction and another was breaking in the other
John recorded that exciting shot of a double breach on his
camera, which you can see toward the end of the video.
Later, he was informed by a biologist at Vancouver Aquarium that
breaching is often how the whales celebrate a kill. Although he
noticed a lot of chasing at the time, he never spotted any dead or
dying dolphins nor was any blood in the water.
John posted the video on YouTube on Monday, the same day he
recorded the dramatic encounter. As of this morning, the number of
views was approaching 100,000.
CBC News posted the video on its
webpage, and John has been approached by people who would like
to purchase the footage, but he plans to keep it available for
“I’ll never see anything like that again,” he said.
At my suggestion, John sent photos to Ken Balcomb and Dave
Ellifrit of the Center for Whale Research. Ken reported that the
orcas included T-100s. According to the book “Transients” by John
Ford and Graeme Ellis, they are a group of killer whales seen
mainly in Southeast Alaska.
UPDATE, June 7, 2013
Orca Network reported last night: The L12s, who had been with J pod for a two days, departed late
in the afternoon June 2, then returned June 5 with most, if not
all, of the rest of L pod. These 60+ orcas traveled up and down
their familiar route from south of San Juan Island well into
Georgia Strait for the past two days, passing Lime Kiln Lighthouse
this evening, heading south.
June is Orca Awareness Month, as proclaimed by Gov. Jay Inslee,
and whale observers are now waiting for all three pods to get back
together for their annual salmon feast in the Salish Sea.
In previous years, the three Southern Resident pods might have
shown up by now, but it would not be surprising to see them as late
as the end of this month or even early July.
J pod has been around our local waterways following an unusual
absence, as I reported in
Water Ways last month (May 16). As of last night, J pod was
near Stuart Island, which is just south of the Canadian border,
according to a report from Capt. Jim Maya of Maya’s Westside
Charters. Jim, who sent the photos shown on this page, called it
“one of my best evenings ever on the waters of the San Juan
Earlier this week, J pod was seen several times with 10 members
of L pod, known as the L-12 subpod, which includes a year-old calf,
The rest of L pod and K pod have not been back for awhile,
although K pod was spotted along the west side of Vancouver Island
on May 20. K pod is the one tracked for three months this past
winter by researchers with the National Marine Fisheries Service.
Water Ways, April 5.