Few people actually witness such an event, but Friday the 13th appeared to be a lucky day for the sunset tour.

A greeting ceremony is performed when different pods of the southern residents come together and reunite with one another, welcoming each other home after a long period of time spent apart.

The ceremony was initiated by an adult male who pulled his entire body out of the water, breaching twice in a row. We slowly approached the area of the breach and began to see multiple dorsal fins, a group of about 8 whales. Within moments of traveling with this group we began seeing more groups.

After watching them for a minute or so I thought to myself, “Could this be? No it’s impossible”. But yep it was true, we were about to witness a greeting ceremony. There were 3 groups of whales, six or more whales in each group that all of a sudden began darting towards one another. I told the passengers, “Get ready, this is not something many people see”. The groups of whales headed for one another, and all of a sudden a large male appeared out of nowhere on the opposite side of our boat, darting right across our bow headed for the group. All of the whales came together to form one massive group, called a “superpod”. Once they had all made it, they went under water for what seemed like an eternity.

The passengers had no idea what was going on, but I told them to just watch. All of a sudden the whales had come up and began their greeting frenzy. Full of excitement you could see a line of about 20 whales all throwing their tails up vertically out of the water, at the exact same time, and then throwing them back down on the water. They did this multiple times reuniting with their loved ones, rolling around on top of one another, and welcoming each other home. It was members of J-pod greeting the members of L-pod on their return to the Salish Sea.

I went up to the wheelhouse and asked Captain Craig, “Are you seeing this?” and he responded, “There’s no crying on the boat”. He could easily sense my emotions and how special this moment really was. The guests had felt it also.

All of this with the rolling thunder and lightning had made for one memorable night.

Naturalist Tara, San Juan Safaris