Kayaking with “Killer Whales” Encounter #7
Orcas have a top speed of about 35 miles per hour, and they usually only reach that speed when they are hunting salmon, which are pretty quick in their own right. In 2003 my group and I were in just the right spot at the right time to witness the combination of speed and power of “killer whales” hunting in the San Juan Islands of Washington State! As we sat backed into a giant bull kelp bed watching J-pod pass by in front of us, a bull orca shot by our bows in an awesome display of power. He was in pursuit of a king salmon, and was moving so fast that a rooster tail flew off each side of his six foot dorsal fin. The fleeing salmon made one last chance maneuver by turning hard to it’s left. The ten-ton orca bull tried to stay with the fish, but at 35 miles per hour could not make that sharp of a turn. His momentum carried it’s entire body out of the water in a dramatic sideways, mid-air flip which brought it crashing back down into the sea with a mighty splash. Undaunted the whale continued it’s chase, and caught the salmon in it’s powerful jaws a few seconds later.
We sat stunned and speechless in our double kayaks before erupting in chorus of Yee-haas! We had just seen an orca bull displaying why it is at the top of the food chain!