Artists of the North Pacific Seas: The Watercolors of Dall’s Porpoises

Dall's Porpoise, full animal n

You might see a plume of ocean spray, a glimpse of black and white and if you’re close enough, you’ll hear a burst of expelled air as one of the speedsters of the sea comes up for a breath. Playing in the boat’s wake, Dall’s porpoises create ephemeral pieces of art out of seawater, light and air.

Dall's porpoise saltwater mohawk n

Water & Light Mohawk. Dall’s porpoises are capable of keeping pace with boats cruising at over 30 mph (55 kph), a speed that places them with or perhaps slightly ahead of Orcas and Pilot Whales as the sea’s fastest cetaceans. 

Dall's porpoise folded water n

Folded Glass. In Alaska’s seas, a steady diet of herring and other small fish help keep the population robust. Males, which attain larger sizes than females, can grow to a length of about eight feet and attain weights just under 500 pounds.

Dall's porpoise black and silver on blue n

Black and Silver. Typically traveling in pairs or in packs up to a dozen or so animals, tell-tale water spouts in the distance are a sign that the porpoises are in the area. If their stomachs are full and the speed of the boat is just right, they may come zipping across the water to play.

Dall's Porpoise Tail n

Watercolor Brush. Dall’s porpoises can seem to appear out of nowhere, and before long they disappear again. 

Dall's porpoise water burst n

Farewell Waterburst. Currently, populations of Dall’s porpoises are doing well. They prefer to swim over deep (500 feet), cold water along the continental shelves ranging from southern Japan, as far north as the Bering Sea, and along the west coast of America as far south as Southern California. As a species, they would benefit from international cooperation to conserve the fish stocks they rely on for food and to ensure that they are not accidentally caught in fishing nets.