Friday Harbor, San Juan Island

The last full day of our trip would be spent back in the United States after having traveled in British Columbia for the past two days. The Sea Lion pulled into the quaint resort and summer town of Friday Harbor located on the protected east side of San Juan Island. The town was built up mostly in the 1950s. Once we had cleared U.S. customs, a visit was made to the wonderful Whale Museum. The displays show the biology and lifestyle of the killer whale, gray whale, and other marine mammals that inhabit this part of the Eastern Pacific. Along our walk back from the museum or shopping in town several saw one of the more docile individuals from a very skittish species, the harbor seal. These pinnipeds have a variable coat, usually with spots, which average about 200 lbs. This particular animal is called Popeye and hangs out near the docks looking for fish or parts of fish that humans leave behind.

The afternoon was spent looking for a specific marine mammal, the killer whale, also called orca. These magnificent marine mammals are the largest of the dolphin family and have seen the world over hunting in packs after prey that ranges from small fish to the largest of creatures, the blue whale. There seem to be three distinct groups: off shore, transient, and resident pods. San Juan Island was a resident, fish eating pod. They have been studied quite a bit, to the point that they are known as “J” pod. We could identify several members of the pod through photographic ID work done in past years. Our views were at a distance at first, and then suddenly they changed direction and came towards the Sea Lion. A few slapped their tails and then one leaped clear of the water, coming down with a great splash.

It was quite a finish to a trip that began in Montana, quite far from the realm of the killer whale.