Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Orcas and Sea Lions

Orcas, or killer whales, are beautiful and very large, up to 12,000 pounds. Last week on our expedition on the National Geographic
Sea Bird we watched two pods of orcas at Blackfish Sound on our way to Alert Bay, B.C. 
Three orcas spouting -- my favorite picture!

Every orca has unique black and white patterns. Individuals can be identified by their tail and fin markings.
The orcas we watched at Blackfish Sound were harassing groups of sea lions near the shore. We had seen a small
pod of orcas a few days earlier, but only from a distance. This was a very exceptional sighting!

A sea lion surrounded by orcas. The experts onboard believed that these orcas were not attacking the sea lions.
This means these were the local residents, which eat only fish (preferably chinook salmon). Orca pods that
enter these waters occasionally hunt larger mammals such as sea lions.

As we watched the amazing orca & sea lion show, we also saw harbor porpoises,
Pacific white-sided dolphins, and in the distance, humpback whales,
but I didn't get photos of these other sea mammals.

An orca skeleton in the excellent whale museum in Friday Harbor, San Juan Islands, Washington.
Orcas are the largest member of the dolphin family, one of many types of toothed whale.
The Center for Whale Research, Friday Harbor, where we heard a very interesting lecture on the lives of the orcas. 
For a detailed treatment of the natural history of orcas and of efforts to help them survive, see the website of the Center for Whale Research. The center has been studying the whales for many years. They have identified every individual in the local pods, and have learned much about their kinship from DNA analysis and observation. Sadly, the capture of large numbers of orcas for presentation at SeaWorld and other marine zoos in the 1960s and 1970s was severely damaging to the orca population of the Pacific Northwest. Decline in food supplies and other threats also put the orcas of the Pacific Northwest at risk. Learn more from the website!

My souvenir refrigerator magnet.


Debra Eliotseats said...

This trip looks beyond bucket list. I so want to go and do this now (especially after our meager east coast whale watching expedition). Thanks so much for sharing your trip! Truly amazing.

Pam said...

Great photos, and what an interesting trip, museum and all!

Kitchen Riffs said...

Terrific pictures! You're on such a neat trip -- enjoying being there with you, virtually speaking. :-) Thanks!

Mae Travels said...

@Debra -- I am a huge fan of LIndblad-National Geographic expeditions and I do recommend them, but I feel I should emphasize that our orca/sea lion sighting was extraordinary, and there's never a guarantee of seeing any particular type of wildlife on any particular voyage. The previous week on the same route the ship sighted no orcas at all! But I still think they are the greatest!

bermudaonion said...

Lovely photos! I would love to take a trip like that.

Sherry's Pickings said...

yes a glorious photo of the 3 orcas spouting.

Pam said...

Great captures of the sea lions with the Orcas!