We don’t have favorite orcas.


Ok, we all do. I, personally, prefer southern residents to transients. I prefer J pod to K or L. I prefer the J16s to anyone else. And I prefer J26 Mike (of the J16 matriline) to literally any other whale in the world. There is no particular reason for it, each ecotype, pod, matriline, and individual have unique characteristics that make them someone else’s favorite. I think it’s similar to choosing your best friend, or favorite color even?


Of course, that sounds incredibly pretentious. I am always thrilled to see any wildlife at any time, especially killer whales. Seriously, I am never disappointed. Not that that would matter. They’re not here for me or anyone else, we’re just awe-inspiringly lucky to share the same planet with such amazing other animals.


Today we were lucky enough to have two amazing trips with J pod. On the first trip we at the very least encountered some 12 breaching, beautiful J22s, J19s, and J17s. Tonight, we ran into the J16s (YAY). Mike, a 25-year old, full-grown adult male was breaching all over the place. It’s incredibly impressive to see their pectoral fins out of the water in a breach, especially on a male, because just like their dorsal fins, they’re about 6 feet long (see above).


Not only were they active, but we also dropped the hydrophone in the water, and were able to hear vocalizations! I get emotional on really great whale watches like this one, but especially with the J16s. They were the first group of orcas that I ever saw when I moved out here last summer. They hold a special place in my heart, and I loved “catching up with old friends.”


The residents have been more absent than usual this summer, due to low salmon numbers. These guys were headed toward the Straight of Juan de Fuca, which is where they exit the Salish Sea on their way out to the open Pacific. There was also a report of a large group of killer whales headed east from Juan de Fuca. Are they Ks and Ls? Will the Js tell them there is a lot of food and that they should come in? Or will they tell them they didn’t find enough food and head elsewhere? Tune in next time to find out.


Naturalist Alex

M/V Sea Lion

San Juan Safaris