August 9, 2021

Bigg’s Killer Whales all around San Juan Islands

T137A's Traveling in Rosario Strait

Haleigh | M/V Kestrel | August 09, 2021 | 2:00pm


For our afternoon adventure tour, we departed from Friday Harbor ready to find some wildlife and enjoy the beautiful day! We traveled inter island in pursuit of a reported group of killer whales traveling in Rosario strait. The calm, glassy waters reflected the puffy white clouds overhead, providing perfect conditions for sighting animals.


By the time we reached Rosario Strait, a reported group of Bigg’s Killer Whales was just north of us further along the Orcas Island shoreline. We saw the spouts of this family puffing near the island followed by dorsal fins. One of these fins was a 6-footer, later identified as T137A (AKA Jack). Jack is one of our largest males within the Bigg’s Killer Whales family with two distinct nicks in his dorsal fin. He was traveling with his mom, T137, and two other siblings, T137B and T137C. They all were spread out along the shoreline as opposed to moving in a tight bunch, indicating the behavior of hunting. Eventually we saw them right around one another moving in a criss-cross pattern, indicating they were hunting. We even saw Jack do a “Moonwalk,” where his body moves backward with the head popping up above the surface in attempts to rip apart whatever was just caught. 


We followed this family all the way towards the magical north side of Orcas Island to see them move past our bow and continue north through the glassy blue waters. We puttered past my favorite outer islands -- Patos, Sucia, Matia, Clark and Barn -- that made us feel like we were in a remote, new world surrounded by cool, tropical islands and distant hills colored in blue hues.


Before we reentered Friday Harbor, we had one last visit by a different family of Bigg’s Killer Whales… the T37As! They were moving up through San Juan Channel while research vessels captured pictures for photo ID purposes and scanned for fecal samples with a trained poop-sniffing dog on board. We enjoyed watching this healthy family continue as a tight unit before leaving them to their journey and finishing up our own adventure.

Picture Credits: Ezra Garfield