When used in relation to British Columbia’s Northern Resident orca community, the term “superpod” refers to a gathering of more than 50 orcas that includes families from all three of the community’s “clans” – A, G, and R. Pretty much every year, superpods come together in the Johnstone Strait area, creating a truly impressive spectacle for whale watchers, and a fascinating puzzle for researchers. What is the occasion, and whence the motivation to travel so far for so brief a moment?
So far this year, no superpod events have happened. However, lately we’ve had a slightly different version of an orca mass get-together. It doesn’t quite come up to “superpod” status, in that it doesn’t include groups from all three clans. However, the numbers are certainly there. They’ve built up gradually, since the arrival of the I15s on August 18th. When they joined the A5s, A24s and A36s with A12, the total number of orcas present was 38. The next day, on August 19th, the A30s & the remainder of the A12s (A34s) arrived, along with a “G-I” voice, who turned out be a single whale, I68, from the I31 matriline. The total was now 58. Ten days later, a major increment occurred, with the arrival of the C6s & C10s, plus the I11s and an unknown number of “G-Gs”, so the total was more than 80. All the groups, except for the I15s, headed far to the east in Johnstone Strait late on the 29th, some making it as far as Campbell River. A day later, they headed back west, traveling through western Johnstone Strait early this morning, and heading “out” via Blackney Pass, Weynton Pass, and Broughton Strait. We got a good look at several groups as they left via Blackney Pass, and realized that the G-Gs included the G2s, G23s, G27s, G29s, and G31s. Altogether, then, when the various groups left Johnstone Strait this morning, heading wherever they are bound, there were over 100 of them.
Not exactly a superpod, but here’s what comes to mind:
We’ve been enjoying an orca supercrowd!