Thursday, March 16th started off like any other here on San Juan Island.  With no reports, Captain Mike and I were optimistic that a whale sighting would pop up.  During March, starting a trip with nothing confirmed for whale sightings is very common.  The Pacific Whale Watch Association comprises over 30 vessels from the US and Canada.  Everyone is working together to network and find whales and wildlife.  There were many boats on the water today from all over the area so we were hopeful that whales would be picked up.

Today was a classic example of just how unpredictable whale watching can be and how easily these enigmatic animals can pass unnoticed.  It had been just over 3 hours on the water and we were entering San Juan Channel heading back toward home.  We had thus far seen great wildlife including seals, sea lions, eagles, and exotic sheep and deer on Spieden Island, and many sea birds.  Unfortunately, no whales had yet been spotted by other vessels.  Captain Mike and I searched and searched, but alas not spotted any dorsal fins or blows. 

Just when we thought we would go home having seen fabulous wildlife, but no whales, a call came over the radio.  The M/V Kestrel, part of the San Juan Safaris fleet, was 10 minutes ahead of us when lo and behold, J Pod!  Captain Brian made the radio call and Captain Mike informed me of the good news. 


J Pod milling right outside Friday Harbor!  This family of SRKWs  had eluded several whale watch vessels, ourselves included, as they came down from the north.  J Pod took a very irregular path down through the San Juans.  Since Granny’s (J2) passing back in December, J Pod has been spotted more often than usual in the Salish Sea and they have been traveling in very odd patterns while in the inland sea.  It is very unusual for J Pod to be in San Juan Channel and it they came down from the north through President’s Channel (between Waldron Island and Orcas Island) which is even weirder!  J Pod’s continued irregular travel patters, lead us to believe they are still figuring out who the new matriarch and leader will be.  Until that time, we will cross our fingers for more exciting surprises like today!

Naturalist Emily

M/V Sea Lion