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Killer Whale: J-Pod Swims Quickly by in Puget Sound

Killer Whale: J-Pod Swims Quickly by in Puget Sound

I have a place that I return to for a bit of time every year: the coast of Puget Sound. There once again, I received a notification that the J-Pod, a pod of Killer Whales local to the area, were on the move. The Killer Whale, or the Orca, is a well known species in Puget Sound.

Quickly grabbing the camera and some shoes, I ran out to the beach. Sure enough, I could see a whale watching boat furiously traveling to get close to these beloved whales. Where there is a whale watching boat moving quickly, there are often whales nearby. I looked out with the binoculars and the entire front of the boat had people standing with cameras and iPads.

Dorsal Fin of Killer Whale by Whale Watching Boat
Dorsal Fins and Approaching Whale Watching Boat

A note on whale watching: if you can, watch from shore. Whales of any kind don’t really need boats chasing them down every time they are moving locations.

I stood on the store watching the J-Pod swim between a fishing boat and the ever closer whale watching boat. The Killer Whale has one of the larger dorsal fins in the area, so you can usually spot them by that alone. This time, one of the Killer Whales was jumping. They were so big, that I could use a 200mm lens from the shore. Would it have been better with a 600mm lens? Yes, but I don’t have one, so I made do.

This was a day in October with a lot of activity in and on Puget Sound with California Sea Lions making an appearance as well as the usual Crows and Gulls.

Let’s run through some facts, so you can identify them if you’re near the ocean!

Dorsal fins of two orcas in puget sound as seen from shore.
Dorsal Fins of two Killer Whales





Killer Whale Defining Characteristics:

  • Can grow to 33 ft long and weigh up to 22,000lbs
  • Mostly black on back with white underneath and white patches near face
  • Exact coloration varies among individual whales
  • Very social and live in pods of 4-20ish
  • Use sound to communicate including clicks, whistles, and calls
  • Diet varies if they primarily live offshore or reside in coastal waters
  • Can live to 100 years old
Tail of a Killer Whale in between two boats in Puget Sound.
Tail Between Two Boats.


  • Ocean dwellers
  • Some live primarily offshore miles out
  • Some reside in coastal waters


  • Lives in all oceans from the Artic to the Antarctic
  • Some migrate long distances, others short distances
  • Higher percentage live in colder waters, although some live in tropical and subtropical waters.

Killer Whale & the Traveling Nature Journal

Two page journal spread on the killer whale or orca with text, a sketch, and a photo.
Two Page Spread in the Journal.

I was as giddy as a kid in a candy store to start this spread. Killer Whales were definitely my favorite animal as a kid. In face, my kid placemat was nothing but whales.

Beyond stoked that I got a few photos of a Killer Whale in the J-Pod, I began journaling. Since I knew the whale would be long and horizontal, I sketched first. I had to make sure to show the large dorsal fin, the fore flipper, and the white patch near its eye. The white patch on the belly was a little more difficult to add, but it shows up ok. Behind the dorsal fin, I also made a patch where it normally has a little grayish white.

After taping the whale in with double sided tape, I began wrapping the text around it. It definitely threw me off a bit having the sketch cover two pages and I forgot a few defining characteristics. Instead of redoing the page and wasting supplies, I added the forgotten characteristics below the whale’s belly.

Lastly, I used the trusty Fujifilm Instax Polaroid Printer to print a photo of the Killer Whale that I saw. I use that thing for everything. I think the polaroid adds a bit of vintage quality to the nature journal. It also compensates for my lack of sketching skills!

Orca underbelly jumping out of water in Puget Sound next to a fishing boat.
Killer Whale Belly


Thursday 19th of November 2020

They are my favorite things to spot from my home! I'm so fortunate to live in an area they frequent.

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