Northern Tier 2010

July 6, 2010

Here There Be Orcas!

Filed under: Geology, Pre-Tour Vacation — Henry Scott @ 8:00 pm


Well, we couldn’t resist the allure of seeing orcas in the wild, so we signed up with a charter company that, like so many, promised great sights to behold. And, I’m pleased to report: they delivered! We went with an outfit called Eclipse Charters out of Orcas Village on their fairly new 56′ “Orcas Express” charter boat.

We headed northwest from Orcas Village and had excellent views of the heavily glaciated yet quite volcanically active Mount Baker — one of the greatest volcanic threats in the entire Cascade Range.

Our guides (there were two naturalists in addition to a knowledgable captain) expressed reservations about seeing orcas from the outset, saying the latest reports had the “pods” looking for salmon near the mouth of the Fraser River, which is further north than they could take us. That’s actually an interesting story in and of itself: the local orcas only eat salmon, whereas more transient populations tend to favor seals, dolphins and other marine mammals. They’re actually all “killer whales,” but this is one of the reasons for why many refer to the Pacific Northwest population as orcas rather than killer whales (the name I grew up with).

I suspect they always sow such seeds of doubt in case they can’t deliver, but that doesn’t really matter; it helped to build suspense and added to the excitement for everyone on board when, sure enough, we came across a very active group. We trolled around for a couple of hours and saw many breaches, tail flaps, and displays of “spyhopping,” as shown in the photo above.

On the way back we made a couple of stops to see bald eagles and seals — completing the gamut of animals we hoped to see.

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1 Comment »

  1. So glad you decided to do the whale watch. As you probably know, Jen began an interest in whales at a very young age (third grade).

    Loved the picture of the “spyhopping” whale. Was not familiar with that term or that behavior. Seems as if every time I come here to read, I learn something new!

    Just did a little reading and found it interesting the the transients and residents avoid each other and that there was an evolutionary split between the two groups that is believed to have started over two million years ago.

    All the best to you as you start your journey tomorrow.

    Comment by Sally — July 7, 2010 @ 2:41 pm


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