Superpod photo by John Boyd, Superpod recording by Monika Wieland Shields.
I remember the day so vividly. We were on the west side near False Bay watching J Pod socialize and chase salmon. J1 Ruffles wasn’t too terribly far from the boat, and we enjoyed watching his wavy fin slide to the surface like a submarine periscope. It was one of those flat-calm days, and the boats were shut down. You could hear those magical “whooshes” popping up all over. On the hydrophone you could hear distinctive J Pod calls. Then something changed.
J Pod suddenly grouped together and stopped vocalizing. They made a line facing southwest and began traveling quickly. We wondered what was going on. Why the sudden change in behavior?
Then the call came over the VHF—“more whales spotted at Discovery Island coming towards San Juan!” So we watched as J Pod shot off towards the southwest, and wondered who was coming in? It didn’t take long until J Pod slowed way down, and made a long line. In the near distance, many blows could be seen as a huge group of whales began slowing down as well. Before long, two lines of whales were facing each other and more were coming in from the west. It was one of my first times to witness a “super Pod” gathering. J Pod facing southwest, K Pod facing northeast about 100 yards from each other. We dropped the hydrophone and it was a swirling symphony of calls going back and forth! The groups came together, and it was as if kids were let out of school for summer. Whales began breaching like crazy. Tons of social behavior as these two groups came together. But it got better! L Pod was behind K Pod and soon there were more dorsal fins than could be imagined!
We watched in awe while the sounds of SRKWs echoed below us. A day I will never forget!