Mt. Rainier and Lenticular Clouds - Dec. 2008 copyright: JMM

August 5, 2007

"Admiral! There be Whales Here!" Scotty, Star Trek IV

At 3:30, I board the Prince of Whales boat, seen below, the Ocean Magic II. This was a very comfortable boat, and since I had managed to get a terrible sunburn on my scalp, face and arms, I was grateful for the indoor area with the open sides, where I could sit out of the sun but still be close to the water. This boat can move too. Once we got out of the harbour, the Captain sped up significantly and we flew around the southern tip of Van Isle, and back into US waters off the coast of San Juan Island. It was a wild ride too. Seas were calm - probably 4' - 5' swells, but it was a wild ride, nonetheless. One of the marine biologists even commented that we got to take "the rodeo tour" that afternoon. I did not want to take the Zodiac boat, seen below. There is no bathroom on board, and it was full on sun. Of course these boats can get much closer to the whales because they are smaller.

I have a lot of pictures of dorsal fins, but I've only posted the best of the best. There were 2 marine biologists on board, Anna and Nicola, who were, of course, very knowledgable about marine mammals. They are able to identify the whales by the shapes of their dorsal fins. J, K and L Pods were the ones making their appearance the day I went, and so we got the benefit of L Pod. The land behind is San Juan Island, Washington.

I think it was when I saw these 2 whales swimming together that I wanted to burst into tears of happiness. I've seen orca whales perform at SeaWorld and Marine World Africa USA but this is the first time I've seen them in the wild. Anna identified these as a grandmother and grandson. She said that families often stay together their whole lives and joked about "how would you like your grandson hanging around with you all the time?"

At one point, far off in the distance, I saw a whale breach and then the giant splash as he came down. It happened too quick to get off a shot, but at least I have that memory burned into my brain.

Then we lucked out big time. This big guy, who Anna identified as the whale called "Mega" was feeding off San Juan Island. He would dive slowly, then come up. I kept my finger on the shutter button every time his fin would emerge, hoping that I'd capture some good photos of him. I was not disappointed.

This is the best whale shot I got all day. I could not have been more pleased. Anna and Nicola agreed that this is about the best you can hope for when on a whale watch....or as they called it "A whale wait". Apparently it's a crapshoot when they go out there. Sometimes you see orcas, sometimes you don't. Sometimes it's from very far away and that's it. Today, Mega swam close enough and slow enough to give our tour a real treat.

That humpback who was sighted in the Strait the day I sailed over was still hanging around but we didn't get to see him that day, although other tours had spotted it. After we hung around and watched Mega, it was time for the Captain to turn back. The ride back in to Victoria was as wild as it was going out. We were hitting wakes and waves like crazy, with the water spraying up high on either side. I was "whoo-hooing" because I love being on a boat that's traveling fast in open water.

The Ocean Magic pulled back in to the harbour at 6:30 and I left completely content and satisified. I had a blast and I got to finally see real orca whales in the wild. I headed back to my hotel with a grin on my face.


  1. Oh God how exciting! It must have been wonderful to see them Jojo.

  2. Anonymous2:50 AM

    Debs here!!

    Wow, they are beautiful pictures, & they way you describe where you were is fabulous. Thank you for sharing. Will email you later hun. xx

  3. Anonymous11:55 AM

    Jo-These pictures of the whales are just great, you are a doll to put them in here so that we can enjoy them with you. I have been out in a boat to see whales and it is awe inspiring. You do take great pictures girl.

  4. Wow, what a fantastic experience. I'm so glad you got to see them.

  5. It was a dream come true to see them in the wild. They are beautiful creatures. Did you know that the orca whale is actually the largest member of the dolphin species?

  6. Anonymous9:47 PM


    I am so stoked you got some great photos of the whales, Jo. I can only imagine the emotions going thru you at the time. Sure makes you feel happy to be alive. Great job capturing them.