This morning, while sipping my morning coffee, I jumped over to the Orca Network facebook page to see if anyone posted orca sightings. If that sentence doesn’t tell you enough, yes, I may have a slight obsession with the ability to see orcas from shore. Despite zero opportunity to see them in landlocked Colorado, I pursued whales in all other possible ways. I purchased videos that I watched after school. I listened to music with whale calls in the background. I wrote history, physics, and english papers on marine mammals in junior high and high school. I worked in research on them in very creative ways and my teachers succumbed. For years I thought I would be a marine biologist.
Now, I am making up for decades of lost sightings. Fall’s chum runs often lure the endangered Southern Resident orcas into Puget Sound. Transient orcas are also frequently spotted this time of year, though they also munch on seals and sea lions.
When I read that they indeed had been spotted relatively close-by, I told Harry and he gave me the green light to chase ’em down. He’d stay with the boys (it was too cold for them given how long I’d want to be outside). It’s official. I need an “Orcas have been sighted!” type of flag on my car, some orca bumper stickers, and maybe even an orca ugly Christmas sweater. I am nutty about these creatures.
At my first stop a woman with binoculars was already staking out the situation. I recognized her from the aforementioned page, because she often posts beautiful photos and videos, so I introduced myself. (See, I wasn’t kidding about this passion. I may not recognize pop stars or actors, but I know the orca lovers!) We watched together as the whales porpoised and swam swiftly south. I met up with her at two other watch spots, too. I told many hearty beachwalkers about them, who then also got to watch. So fun!
Three times now, maybe four, I’ve jumped in my car to try to spot whales after seeing someone post that they were nearby. If I didn’t have obligations, like, oh, taking care of my children, I could see them much more frequently this time of year. I watched them a few weeks ago, only through binoculars and quite distant at that, and my family and I enjoyed them once last fall. All thanks to the Orca Network.
Every time, I get an adrenaline rush on the drive. I wonder if I’ve chosen a good beach. I wonder if I’ve predicted their timing right. I wonder if they’ve turned. I wonder if my binoculars will be effective enough or if I’ll be lucky enough to see them close to shore. I quickly park my car, dash to the viewpoint, and begin scanning. I look for dorsal fins and spray. Sometimes a breech is a first notification- which is completely breathtaking.
My wish list now includes better binoculars and a better zoom lens. These pictures were zoomed in as far as possible, and often cropped. Quality suffers, but I wanted to share them here anyway. All of these pictures were taken from Golden Gardens Park in Seattle. My earlier stops were in Richmond Beach and I didn’t take pictures. I was still in shock that I was actually seeing them again, so I just soaked it in. My fingers and toes are still numb, but my heart is beating happily after a few wonderful hours on the shore.