May 28, 2021

8 Bigg's Killer Whales Traveling in the Rosario Strait!

Bigg's Killer Whales in the Rosario Strait!

Laura | M/V Osprey | 5/28/2021 | 12:30 PM

Today was an exciting day boating in the Rosario Strait!  We headed out of Friday Harbor on M/V Osprey with Captain Gabe, Captain Pete, Olivia, me, and a boat full of excited passengers.  We had a report of orcas earlier in the day and were making our way over to the area they were last sighted near Guemes Island.  As we slowed down our vessel passengers were thrilled to see blows and large black dorsal fins of Bigg’s killer whales! 

The whales were identified as the T65As and T77 and T77E, all traveling together!  T65A is a female born in 1986 and T77 is a female estimated around 1981, so it was pretty cool to speculate why these females like spending time together.  Both females have given birth several times, even though they are only in their 30s.  T65A has had 6 calves and lost one child, and T77 has 6 children.  T77A was born in 1996 and is a lone male who has for some reason chosen not to stay with his family over the past several years.  T65A has a calf from 2018 and 2014, and T77A has her latest calf from 2016.  We see about a 4 to 5 year gap in between siblings as rearing includes an 18 month gestation length and calves nurse for 2 to 3 years.  These females seem to have a lot in common with their family structure.  Orca identification of Bigg’s killer whales only started in the 1970’s so we still have so much to learn about their relations between one another and their general preferences of why certain individuals like to spend time with one another.  The more time we are able to spend with these fascinating whales gives us more opportunity to notice trends in behavior and associations, and to understand them on a much deeper level overall.

Passengers were in awe as we watched these whales surface over and over right near each other.  They kept a tight formation throughout the trip and our last looks were awesome!  These orcas surfaced fairly close to our boat and Captain Gabe shut off our engines so we could hear their exhalations and movements as they cruised by through the water.  Once they came up again away from our vessel we continued back towards home.  On our way we stopped at a Bald eagle’s nest near Lopez Island and checked out some rhinoceros auklets in the area!  It was a beautiful sunny day out on the water and I was so happy to share this amazing orca encounter with everyone onboard!