Where Are the Whales?

People are hungry to see the orcas!

Despite being situated in the Salish Sea for the past six months, it’s been difficult to keep track of the whales this year! I thought that since I was an official docent at the Friday Harbor Whale Museum, I’d be more up-to-date…this has not happened. Reports from the Center for Whale Research, however, have been super informative, but being in the right place at the right time to actually see a whale is infrequent.

However, that being said, there are still whales around! In fact, we were excited to see a small pod of orcas pass by the Anacortes Ferry terminal yesterday when we returned from an outing to Friday Harbor. Unfortunately, whale watching boats were NOT keep the required distance from the whales. Bottom line: People are hungry to see the orcas! A small pod swam along and you’d have thought that a miracle had occurred by the reaction of the onlookers…and perhaps it was a miracle.

There have been a number of sightings of the Biggs Transient Orcas, but the Southern Resident Pod (the northwest fave) has been a bit more secretive. J-pod has recent been seen in the area, but K and L pods have pretty much stayed on the west side of Vancouver Island. Smart move, really: more fish and fewer boaters there by far. What pod was seen by the ferry terminal, I have no idea. I love the whales and worry greatly about their well-being, but I do not have the wherewithal to memorize their dorsal fins, saddles, scars or other markings to recognize individuals.

However, both my husband and I were thrilled upon seeing two orcas just a short distance north of the Columbia River Bar as we headed north from Astoria, Oregon. In fact, I even forgot how majorly queasy I was felling when I sighted the two. The next day we saw a small group, probably Minkes, about three miles off the Washington shoreline north of West Port. I wasn’t seasick that day…the ocean was like a lake, and the whales were happily spouting as they likely gobbled silver salmon which seemed to be plentiful in the area judging by the number of fishing vessels. Honestly, we’d never seen so many whales in our sojourns up and down the west coast. It made me feel hopeful for these amazing fellow mammals.

We’ve now been in the Northwest for six months and on our newest vessel for three months. The rains have started…that means a lot of boaters have retired their boats for the year and anchorages will be far less busy. This could also very likely mean that more whales will be around. Perhaps we’ll get lucky more often!

I encourage you to join the Center for Whale Research located in Friday Harbor, Washington. It is also a 501c3, so your donations and membership are tax deductible, and you can be kept completely up-to-date on the whales. Also, check out the Friday Harbor Whale Museum gift shop for unique gifts. This is one way to support the only whale museum in the United States!