Posted by: onboardtourswhales | June 13, 2021

June Orca Action Month!

Grand Matriarch J2 Granny
J-27 Blackberry J-38 Cookie
Posted by: onboardtourswhales | March 12, 2021

J58 Crescent Brings Some Hope!!

March 6, 2021 reports of Jpod in Haro Strait sent many whale fans all along the west and south side of San Juan Island to catch a glimpse of these iconic orca.

I lucked out to see the newest Jpod babies with their moms and families, the J19’s and J35’s who were milling in a convergence zone at the end of an ebbing tide. The babies did leisurely spyhops, lunges, back floating, roll overs, and cuddle puddles with the family while moms rested a bit and then multiple tail fluke slaps on the water!

So good to see J35 Tahlequah (in 2018 she carried her dead calf for 17+ days) with J57 Phoenix her baby boy born the beginning of September 2020 active and healthy looking.

J41 Eclipse had J58 Crescent at the end of September 2020, and Crescent was very active and healthy looking too, then rolled over on mom’s back and showed she’s a girl!!

Healthy well fed females are needed to keep the Southern Resident killer whale population reproducing and not go extinct.

J58 Crescent baby girl!!
J57 Phoenix baby boy!
Posted by: onboardtourswhales | September 17, 2020

2020 SRKW Superpod!!!

We will all remember 2020 as perhaps the most challenging and difficult year in our lifetimes. My compassion and empathy goes out to all people and all living beings. I keep hope that we can and will help heal earth ocean life and ourselves, creating better times.

Read More…

Posted by: onboardtourswhales | May 15, 2020

Eba Dogstar!!

Honored to have been part of this 🙂

Posted by: onboardtourswhales | December 17, 2019

Dogs and Disney+

A highlight of 2019 for me was to be invited to help out with Conservation Canines, Wild Orca research, with Bill Farmer (Goofy and Pluto) and Disney+ crew filming about Eba’s important work, the research, and plight of Southern Resident killer whales for their new show ‘It’s a Dog’s Life’.

It does take each of us and even other animals- like Eba the dogstar 🙂 to learn about and care for our finite oceans and earth. All the collaborations, advocacy, actions, and worldwide attention keep me hopeful.

Happy Solstice, Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Healthy New Decade to all life!

Eba, a Conservation Canines whale poo sniffer! Along with Wild Orca folks and Disney+ folks filming for ‘It’s a Dog’s Life’ 🙂

Posted by: onboardtourswhales | August 28, 2019

Jpodders Back by San Juan Island!!

August 25, 2019 Albion test fishery’s estimates of Chinook salmon returning to the Fraser River show Chinook salmon are coming in, so the (SRKW) Southern Resident killer whale-orca salmon eaters are back in the Salish Sea too!

Some J-K-L pod families have been sighted around San Juan Island in the last 2 weeks. J podders have been doing the ‘Westside Waltz’ going back and forth along the west side of the island, like they did consistently back in salmon abundant times, bringing much joy and renewed determination to help our mesmerizing kin.

The Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) recommends fishery management measures for waters off Washington, Oregon, and California to the Secretary of Commerce through the National Marine Fisheries Service.

They are considering a place at the salmon table for our beloved SRKW.

As the PFMC recommends allocations of salmon harvest for commercial, tribal, and sport fishing, we are asking for an allocation of Chinook salmon for the SRKW.

You can help and comment by 9-4-19 on Agenda F3 at this link:

J56 – sweet 3 month old daughter of J31 Tsuchi, niece of J27 Blackberry and J39 Mako, and grand daughter of J19 Shachi 🙂

Jpodder tail-fluke slapping the water! Salmon or communication? Gull photo bomb 😉

J’s coming south by Lime Kiln Lighthouse – male Jpodder to the left!

J19 Shachi – Mom of J27 Blackberry

J27 Blackberry

Haro Strait Sunset

Posted by: onboardtourswhales | August 1, 2019

Tl’uk Moon Black New Moon

July 31, 2019 Serendipity brought the Transient-Bigg’s killer whale family of T46B1’s swimming with the last of a strong new moon 10′ flooding tide, foraging nearshore for seals and porpoises along the westside of San Juan Island.

T46B1 is the sixteen year old mom of four year old T46B1A, and new youngster T46B1B first sighted in May this year.

T46B1B has been named the Coast Salish Bella Coola name Tl’uk which means moon. Tl’uk has an unusual light skin color that may be outgrown, a syndrome, or albino, time will tell.

Wistful to see this family swim along the shoreline by the Westside Preserve and Lime Kiln Point State Park as Southern Resident salmon dependent orca used to do, yet joy to see this family thriving in the Salish Sea.

Transient-Bigg’s killer whales tend swim further out in Haro Strait. Mystical to me, that this light, second born Tl’uk- Moon and family swam so close to shore on this black new moon day (black means 2nd new moon in a month).

I wasn’t expecting to see these whales so close to shore and I didn’t bring my camera, so my phone photos don’t show the color differentiation. But those moments of seeing them in the cove right below me is unforgettable and the endorphins they ignited lasted for hours, adding to celebrating my first born son’s 33rd birthday!

T46B1's T46B1B Tl'uk

T46B1’s T46B1B Tl’uk

T46B1's T46B1B Tl'uk

T46B1’s T46B1B Tl’uk

T46B1's T46B1B Tl'uk

T46B1’s T46B1B Tl’uk

Posted by: onboardtourswhales | July 7, 2019

Southern Resident Orca Return – For Only 2 Days

July 6, 2019 Here in the Salish Sea, nearly daily sightings of Bigg’s-Transient killer whales thriving and increasing their families by eating seals, sea lions, and porpoises. Along with Humpback and Minke whales coming in for the season and some Gray whales still hanging around, while we waited for Southern Resident orca to come home.

These endangered, species in the spotlight Southern Resident killer whales-orca had not been sighted in the Salish Sea, their critical core habitat for 59 days, since early May until July 5, 2019. Last year they were not sighted in May, this year not sighted in June, unheard of in 43 years of population data collection by the Center for Whale Research.

The salmon famine continues. Distinct, unique, Southern Resident orca are fish eaters, primarily of Chinook salmon which are also endangered and threatened. The management of historically major producers of salmon, the Fraser River and the Snake River, must stop this extinction of salmon and orca. Ask what you can do, and do. Your, our, actions (or lack of) matter, we can and do make a difference.  A glass of water may be collected a drop at a time, yet does fill.

We are all overcome with joy to see Southern Resident J pod and K pod orca families, who many of us consider part of our families, do the ‘Westside Waltz’ swimming back and forth throughout the days along the Westside of San Juan Island during Independence Day weekend! It filled my heart to see, and hear the powerful breaths of these sentient beings, and that they were doing the ‘dance’ we had not seen in a very long time. When I arrived to the Westside Saturday afternoon, some of the orca families were already down by the south end of the island, so I can’t help but wonder if their ‘porpoising’ high speed swimming shown in my photos was in response to a call from the others saying we found some salmon, or it’s time to go look for salmon elsewhere… Their synchronicity really struck me too. We need to synchronize, work together as these beloved, extraordinary creatures do.

Posted by: onboardtourswhales | May 30, 2019

Visiting San Juan Island? Stop On By!

Got a whale of a question? Stop by and chat with one of the Volunteer Naturalists at the Westside Preserve and Lime Kiln Whale Watch Wall on San Juan Island,  from May Memorial Day through September Labor Day. Volunteer Naturalists will be there Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays between *11am to 5pm*  to answer your questions and share information about the whales and the Salish Sea!

Check out this Facebook page to see when, where Volunteer Naturalists will be:

Many thanks to this collaboration with local,  regional, education and research groups, and our volunteers the core of this program providing educational opportunities and helping care for the Westside Preserve.

*depends on weather- rain will cancel*

Caroline Armon ~ Coordinator

~ San Juan Island Naturalist Program ~

Posted by: onboardtourswhales | November 14, 2018

Dolphin Dream Come True

November 1, 2018

Recently I joined a friend for a short trip to Mazatlán Mexico. My first trip to Mexico was to Mazatlán 30 years ago (besides Tijuana as a kid on family trips down the west coast) and I remember going through culture shock and not seeing, not even being aware of whales or dolphins in the area at the time. Preparing for this trip I did my research and was keen to go out on the water with Onca Explorations and Oscar Guzon Zatarain; a local knowledgeable, experienced Marine Ecologist Scientist, dedicated to sustainable, responsible, respectful of the ecosystem ecotourism, citizen science, educating and engaging the local fishers, community, visitors, and cetacean entanglement and stranding response. Our attitude going out on the water was no expectations, just happy to be out on the ocean, soak up the warm sun and water, and see whatever the sea reveals.

On several previous research projects there were possibilities to swim with free wild dolphins and whales, but hadn’t happened for me. Yet. As we headed out on the Pacific Ocean I asked Oscar if any Humpbacks whales had been sighted yet, they are a recovery success story. He said no, then bam! two Humpbacks came up exhaling on the horizon!! The first sightings of Humpbacks of the season in this area!! We were all elated, took photo identification photos, and noted the environmental conditions and behavioral sightings data. Then I asked Oscar about turtles in the area and bam! we start seeing Olive Ridley turtles resting at the surface throughout our trip.

As we headed further offshore a group of 4 Bottlenose dolphins came to our boat, we slipped into the water but they didn’t stick around, were not interested in us so we got back in the boat and continued west. It was a good practice swim in snorkel gear and protocol. Oscar spotted Spotter dolphins in the distance, who can be ‘friendly’, but this group was swimming away and we got information on the radio from fishers about Spinner dolphins further out, so we went about 25 miles offshore. Having sailed the Pacific, being out of sight of land doesn’t bother me. This was a fun cruise but not a party boat, an intention to learn about and connect with sea life, along with plenty of water, soda, snacks and lunch.

I had checked the tides and we arrived where the Spinner dolphins were at 11am, right at the peak of the low tide, and then slack water as I had hoped. Through the years I have experienced the most incredible, magical encounters with cetaceans during slack water; the brief hour when a tidal cycle has finished and before the next tidal cycle begins, the currents are calm and ocean waters can seem like lakes. I have seen the most surface active and unusual behaviors by cetaceans during slack water, and it makes sense as they are not using energy to go against tides and currents, or utilizing flood tides to travel. Oscar estimated the community of Spinner dolphins we met with were over 2000 animals. It was beyond a Wow!!!! Seeing these dolphins everywhere I looked, as far as I could see took my breath away. We went into the water and several dolphin came and checked us out, and many kept coming by for almost an hour. Oscar and boat crew Dive Master Israel (my snorkel partner) filmed for dolphin identification and data. You can hear clicking vocalizations on my GoPro video:

Dolphin are graceful agile masters of the sea. I hummed to see if any response (I think musical sounds can be universal communication), nothing obvious to me from the dolphins but a fish came by!

Just being, floating in the warm crystallizing clear blue water, while the free wild dolphins chose to dance by us, a personal lifelong dream came true, and long lasting natural high 🙂

Ethereal sun lighted Pacific Ocean and Spinner dolphins

First Humpbacks of the season!

First Humpbacks of the season!

Old Town Cathedral

Old Town Celebration

Old Town Square Gazebo

Malecon Mermaid Sunset





Posted by: onboardtourswhales | October 24, 2018

Only WE Can Prevent EXTINCTION

Southern Resident Orca Recovery and Task Force

Survey and Comments Due 10-29-18:

2018 has been a despairing year reflecting many decades of our human shortcomings, mismanagement, and environmental impacts, as our beloved Southern Resident Orca fade away. I hold onto the belief that we while we create destruction and consumption, we can create more preservation, restoration, recovery. We made this mess, we can clean it up. We can care more for our connected ocean and earth lives. I still find hope in nature, nature still heals us. We must heal nature.

All of my Southern Resident Orca J and L podders’ photos are from shore, cropped, and obviously I need a longer lens 😉

2018-5-19 Bald Eagle Steller Sea Lion- Queen or King Rules?

2018-6-6 Transient T77’s

2018-7-21 Exotic Transients CA137 CA40

2018-7-21 Exotic Transient CA40

2018-7-21 Exotic Transient CA137

2018-7-21 Humpback BCXukKeta2014#1 Mt Baker

2018-7-21 Humpbacks

2018-7-21 Humpbacks

2018-7-26 Jpodder Breach

2018-7-26 Jpodder Pectoral Slap

2018-7-26 Jpodder Porpoise Swimming

2018-8-12 NOAA and Lummi Feeding Chinook Salmon to J50 Scarlet

2018-8-12 Jpodders

2018-8-12 Jpodders

2018-8-12 Jpodder Tail Lob

2018-8-12 Jpod Family

2018-8-12 Jpodder Spyhop

2018-8-12 Jpod Family Spyhops

2018-8-12 Jpod Family Spyhops

2018-9-5 Lpodder Breach

2018-9-5 Dio at Work Sniffing for Orca Scat for Conservation Canines Crew to Collect

2018-9-18 South Beach

2018-9-18 Resilience

2018-9-18 Cattle Point

2018-9-18 Bald Eagle

2018-9-23 Red-breasted Sapsucker Determination

2018-9-26 Jpodder Breach

2018-9-26 Jpodder 2nd Breach by Fisher

2018-9-26 Sunset

2018-9-26 Sunset

2018-9-26 Sunset

2018-10-15 Harbor Seal Resting

2018-10-15 Mt Baker Sunset


Posted by: onboardtourswhales | June 8, 2018

World Oceans Day

Sharing science and conservation information (education and outreach) takes translating, diplomacy, and time for actions=changes to happen. I focus on options and results, like the awareness, care, and respect happening for the Honu-Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles that depend upon the beaches of Maui to bask-rest, beaches which are also very utilized by humans. This guy was resting undisturbed by people all afternoon, then went back into the Pacific. Photo and video taken with 200m zoomed camera. Sounds like turtle vocalizations? (besides mine 😉

Posted by: onboardtourswhales | May 29, 2018

Madeira Islands post 12- Parting Thoughts

February-March-April 2018 I went to Madeira for my love of whales and dolphins, to help with research and conservation. The graduate students from around the world, and CIIMAR OOM/ARDITI CETUS Project scientists, inspire and give hope for the future care of our planet. The best volunteer internship I’ve done so far! The people of Madeira endear me to these islands, make this a place to return to.


Posted by: onboardtourswhales | May 29, 2018

Madeira Islands post 11- Local Island Tour

March 30, 2018 As my time on Madeira came to a close, a fine young man Bruno offered to give me a local’s perspective tour. I had ventured a bit in other regions, I also wanted to experience the northwest, southwest, and west sides of the island. Particularly Porto Moniz where there are lava pools, along with a restaurant named Orca, had to check that out! And to see a full sunset on the west side at the lighthouse at Ponta do Pargo. Bruno and his Mercedes Smart Car convertible made it a fun adventure. I think all locals drive fast on the narrow, switch back roads, yet seem to sense blind corners or oncoming traffic, display no road rage, and stop immediately when pedestrians are by a crosswalk in the city. We headed across the island stopping at a serene sheep ranch on a plateau. Along the way to Porto Moniz, Bruno showed me the villages where his grandparents and parents lived and grew up, making a living by farming. I am awed by the farm and garden terraces carved into the rugged mountains and the hard laborious work that takes. I had not seen a cow on island until then, a few small cattle ranches on this northern side. It was a beautiful warm sunny day, the surf was up at Porto Moniz as you can see in the first photos of the people-made lava pools, and the spray blowing across the village. I thought of swimming in the second set of more natural lava pools until I almost fell stepping on the algae clad stairs. I’m not as brave that way as other people are! Content to take photos of the majestic seas and lands. We drove back across the mountains past the high plateaus that folks are restoring with native trees and plants. A glimpse of high peaks through the clouds, and huge wind turbines, to the southwestern shores where Bruno pointed out his lifelong swimming and surfing beaches. Then timing just right to get to Ponta do Pargo Lighthouse for the sunset and full moon rising. A perfect day. I have never seen or been through so many tunnels- old mountain rock tunnels and new concrete enclosed tunnels, as on this trip and our travel back on the express highway to Funchal to drop me off. Bruno was going to meet up with extended family at another village to celebrate upcoming Easter. He said some of his favorite times are when all the extended family rent a house in different villages for a long weekend, to gather together celebrating whatever event. I sensed and so appreciated throughout my stay here on Madeira, the importance of, the care, kindness, and respect for family and elders, that is also shown to visitors.



Posted by: onboardtourswhales | May 29, 2018

Madeira Islands post 10- Cabo Girao- Camara de Lobos- Ponchas

March 27, 2018 Another excursion by bus with the marine biology graduate students. There are many statues all over Madeira Island, difficult to take pictures of from a moving bus or car. Yes the busses go fast too. We went to Cabo Girao, a southern seaside cliff and tourist destination with a glass floored overlook. I did fine with brief looks 580 meters down to take these pictures! That dot down on the water in the 5th photo is a large touring sailing vessel. A pigeon on the rocks in the 6th photo. On the way back we checked out Camara de Lobos, an idyllic fishing village where we imbibed in Pochas, first created here, a traditional drink of sugarcane juice distilled alcohol or sugarcane rum, honey, sugar, lemon juice, and selected fruit juice, each drink hand muddled fresh. I was warned they can sneak up like Long Island Iced Tea, one was delightful 😉 I’m also impressed how the fishers of Camara de Lobos have adapted to their southern storm and surge exposure and haul out their fishing boats when the seas get rough.


Posted by: onboardtourswhales | May 29, 2018

Madeira Islands post 9- Porto Santo Snorkel

March 22, 2018 Remember Matias, our Porto Santo Island rally race car driver tour guide? We took him up on his invite to go snorkel at a tide pool marine protected area. Awesome co-worker Tara was kind to take photos and videos with my GoPro. I admit I was nervous about the slippery sand cliff hike down to the tide pools, and of all the caravels- Portuguese Man o’ War we saw washed up on the rocky beach, possibly being in the water too? Thankfully they weren’t! All the storms and surges had blown them onto island beaches. Matias timed our snorkel around the peak of flood tide for slack, calm waters, yet we still felt strong currents. A biodiversity of fish and invertebrates in this small shallow area. The highlight, of course, being the common Atlantic octopus who swam surprisingly fast by us, then gave us another peak from her/his home!!


Posted by: onboardtourswhales | May 29, 2018

Madeira Islands post 8- Desertas Islands and Dolphins!!

March 18, 2018 Awesome Tara arranged a trip for university graduate students and a few of us elders 😉 to sail southeast of Madeira Island to the Desertas Islands, by way of a sailing ketch from the first whale watching tour company on Madeira, started by one of the researchers we work with. Desertas Islands are a Nature Reserve for endangered Mediterranean monk seals and nesting seabirds. We were hoping to see some seals and seabirds but they tend to haul out and nest on the eastern side, while we approached the western side. Notice the 2 houses for the 2 Rangers- the only human inhabitants on the barren Desertas Islands! The geology and strata tell ancient stories. The winds and surf were up again so we couldn’t land and explore a bit. Some kids were seasick and felt better while we moored and some kids went snorkeling in the too cold for me water. We bashed our way back toward Madeira. Taking bonine- meclizine before the trip helped me, unfortunately too late for the kids. Some students hung onto the bowsprit going up and down like an amusement park ride, getting completely soaked and laughing the whole way. Reminded me of my sons doing the same thing the morning after we sailed through a dark night of hurricane force winds. I admire that resilience! No photos of the student bowsprit ride as I was getting sprayed, happy the sun was shining to dry us. Zoom in on the last scenic photo, what looks like a bridge, is the built over the water landing strip at the airport! Seeing all the common and bottlenose dolphins riding our bow and stern wakes made the day 🙂



Posted by: onboardtourswhales | May 29, 2018

Madeira Islands post 7- On-In The Water- Porto Santo Plants

March 2018 Weather calmed down, we got back out on the ferry and water to do our research! I can’t share details or photos of the research data, but happy to have sighted all the cetaceans we did. On Porto Santo Island I enjoyed all the plant life coming to bloom, many succulents and cactus remind me of Baja and Mexico. The photo of ‘BuggyPower’ is production of energy by gathering and processing the algae from the water by the marina. It looks like they are monitoring the operation well. One particular day I was tired and hot, warmer days were returning, and after walking for more than an hour down the road toward the west side of the island, I was thinking of turning back since it would be that long of a walk back to the ferry. I’m so glad we didn’t! Tara, my awesome co-worker and I made our way down to the water, the longest golden sand beach in the islands. The rest of the beaches throughout the archipelago are mostly rock beaches. Taking my shoes off, rolling up my pant legs, putting my feet into the Atlantic Ocean was refreshing beyond words! We strolled the surf all the way back to the town park we had started at. Some photos show the damage from the storms and surges along the sand cliffs, taking out trees and structures, and the only staircase from the beach to stable ground that guys were working on restoring. I think they liked having their picture taken. Then it got a little dicey for us as the beach became narrow, steep, and rocky by the public pier, no easy route up, and the 8’ flooding spring, new moon tide was peaking. Walking barefoot on rocks in a strong surf is not recommended. I stayed still when the surf came in hoping the rolling rocks wouldn’t hit me too hard, moved when the surf receded and I could see where to step, and slowly climbed up to dry ground with only a minor toe cut, while a kind park worker was keeping an eye on us pointing out the path to make sure we were ok! Pets in the islands are well cared for too, friendly happy dogs also walking the town on Porto Santo Island.




Posted by: onboardtourswhales | May 29, 2018

Madeira Islands post 6- Laurisilva Forests- Levadas- A-Frame Homes

March 12, 2018 The Laurisilva forests are a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the mountainous central part of Madeira Island. I had to go see these providers of water. Why the levadas- irrigation canals were built to channel all the cloud moisture and rainfall these dense trees gather in their leaves and drip down to earth. I started at Ribeiro Frio and walked along the trails next to the levadas, listening to birds, and water cascading down while looking out to multiple mountain peaks and valleys to the sea. Then I caught the bus again to the northern coast of Madeira to visit Santana known for their straw thatched roofed A-frame houses. I noticed it was clearer, drier, and more plants in bloom on this side of the island than Funchal on the southern coast. I thought the A-frames houses would be obvious. They weren’t, they are of times past and just preserved now in a small area of town, and I missed the bus stop to get off and tour the town. I realized as the bus headed through the steep valleys and along the coast, that I better get off at the next town to figure out my way back or I’d be on the bus the rest of the day! The people were so friendly at the café I stopped at, and helpful as most Madeira people are, and they called a taxi to take me back to Santana, as it would be many hours for a bus heading back that way. The taxi driver shared great local knowledge and showed me exactly where to catch the bus when I was ready to go back to Funchal. The bus system works very well here and is affordable, although limited in nighttime hours, which I understand with these narrow, switchback, limited view, unlighted roads. I did get bus sick and sea-swell sick, but early on took ½ tablet of bonine- meclizine that really helped calm my stomach yet remain alert. Lovely day being in up in the mountains, the forests, and small villages.




Posted by: onboardtourswhales | May 29, 2018

Madeira Islands post 5- Rua Santa Maria Art

March 11, 2018 Pictures do say a thousand words and more! The street names have meanings, whether referring to a person, month of the year, etc. The street of the place I stayed at is Rua da Saude- means Health Street, I like that. I walked down to explore Santa Maria door and wall art along narrow cobblestone streets with restaurant after restaurant, block after block of art and food. Hostesses and hosts try to lure you in with specials and seafood displayed on ice. This time I did go for the local crab salad that provided me dinner for 2 days 🙂 I took 125 photos, these are my favorites:



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