June 26, 2019
14 Bigg's Killer Whales Celebrate a Sunset Whale Watch!!
Laura C./ 6-26-2019 / M/V Sea Lion / 5:30pm
Our whale watch this evening was one of my favorites of the season! Captain Pete, Olivia, myself and a full boat of passengers voyaged north to Saturna Island. We were ecstatic to find three families of Bigg’s killer whales joined together in what seemed like a celebration! The guests for this evening’s celebration included the T36As, T65As, T65Bs, and T77A, with a grand total of around 14 whales! The calves were tail breaching and head breaching throughout the whole trip! They certainly showed off their flexibility by raising their flukes way up in the air in a waving fashion and twisting around at the surface. Calves are so entertaining to watch as they start to explore their way around the water (and sometimes the sky!) and mimic the movements of their elder role models. Even the more mature members were participating in this active play as there were numerous spyhops and even some flipper slapping and belly ups! I love seeing whales turn over at the surface as they look like they are enjoying the day doing the back stroke!
There are several theories of why whales do this surface-oriented activity and it is like asking why dogs bark. There can be multiple reasons for their behavior and observing their surroundings at the time can help decipher the difference. These families were all joined together in a social behavior and seemed very happy to be with one another. They were not traveling quickly or in a direct line of travel and seemed very relaxed. These factors lead us to believe they are simply enjoying each other’s company and the calves were quite excited to have other youngsters around to play with!
In other circumstances we may see whales breach or show repetitive behavior sequences at the surface for communication purposes for whales that may be in the distance. You can certainly imagine the amount of sound produced from a 12,000lb male killer whale slamming his body on the water’s surface! Whales also carry parasites and barnacles on their body so this breaching behavior may also be a method of shaking them off and relieving themselves of those irritating creatures. However, considering how excited these whales were it was pretty clear they were just enjoying their time together! We stayed with this large congregation for the majority of the trip because they were so mesmerizing to watch!
Eventually we said so-long to these amazing animals and started heading back in the direction of Friday Harbor. Along the way we had time to check out Flat Top with some adorable harbor seals settling their bodies along the rocks. Once the passengers were able to pick out the first handful of harbor seals we all quickly realized that many of the surrounding islands had harbor seals scattered along the edges of the islands! We also had awesome looks at a few bald eagles! One individual was perched right along a branch in full view, demonstrating their majestic aura! This trip was absolutely fantastic and we were all so thrilled to be able to share such a biodiverse area with everyone on board!