Sunday, August 17, 2014
This isn't the Disney Channel...
The only whale report I had when I first went into work had the residents WAY north. Further north than time would allow, without someone missing the ferry or a seaplane. I was hoping those whales would kick it in gear and haul ass south. They have done that quite a few times this season. Not today.
A half hour before departure, a report of transient whales near Partridge Bank. Not close, but closer than the whales up north; this trip is doable. Most of the time, I would rather see the residents, because they tend to spend more time around the surface... but, one has to make a plan, then go for it.
A half hour after departure, I got a report that the whales we were heading to had turned direction and were moving away from us. Not what I wanted to hear. Fifteen minutes later, they had turned again and were heading towards us. Ups and downs - this was a definite UP.
When we got to the whales, there were only 3 other boats on the scene; 30 seconds after we arrived, there was a breach! Then, some porpoising - these whales were on the hunt! A harbor porpoise came out of the water just ahead of them... this poor guy was about to have a really bad day. One of the transients caught it as it came up for a breath... took it under... then tossed it upside down into the air.
This is one of those scenes where people say, "Ohhhh!" in an upbeat way, then "Ohhhhhhhhhhhh!" in horror, when they realize that the harbor porpoise isn't going to survive. Everyone thinks they want to see this... some later wish they had turned their eyes away. This is raw nature, and shows the power and hunting skills of the killer whales. There was a juvenile with this group, and he got to play with the kill, too... it's how they develop their skills.
After the kill and the chowing down, there was some "celebration" - lots of surface activity. A somersault, some spy hops, a few jumps, and some "headstands" where the whale waved its tail in the air. Then something I haven't seen before: a whale swimming backwards and coming out of the water tail first. Oh, there is probably a name for that maneuver, but my naturalist onboard hadn't seen it and didn't know what to call it. The whale did this several times. Both of our Friday Harbor boats were there to see this, and I could hear the naturalists on both boats whooping it up!
One of the best parts of this viewing: the whales stayed pretty much in the same spot - we were able to shut down the boat and just view without moving. The water was calm, so it was easy to see all the activity. Just a fine day of whale watching, and really getting to see them in their environment, doing what they do. I think the guests onboard knew they were seeing something special today.
One of our guests got the shot of the whale tossing the porpoise in the air! I didn't bring a camera today. I've had days where I bring a camera and don't have time to get it out. Today was one of those days where I would have had the time and the position. If this is what happens on a "no-camera day," I'll take this!
We now have two weeks left of work. This evening was our last evening trip for the season. Our Roche Harbor boat will still have two trips a day for a while, but one trip per day for the Friday Harbor boats (unless they slip a charter in on us).