September 10, 2021

Bigg’s Killer Whales And Dungeness National Park!

Bigg's Killer Whale

Maxx K. | M/V Kestrel | 09/10/2021 | 2:00pm

    Kestrel raced through the San Juan Channel and swiftly popped out into the open Juan de Fuca. Now we’re full steam ahead. A popular family of six whales had been spotted hard south just north of Port Williams but getting there would mean 50 minutes of high speed flying. Fortunately, this is exactly what Kestrel was made for so Captain Eric and I were stoked. 

    When we finally arrived on scene, we were greeted by one whale: T065A3, “Amira.” This 14 year old boy traveled alone, surfacing every few minutes to disappear again below the surface to forage. We followed along the young male for several minutes before the rest of the family was spotted, spread out about a mile in front of our bow. 

    T065A2 appeared first. Ooxjaa is a bit of a San Juan Safaris favorite. I've seen this big boy several times during this season. He’s easily recognizable not only because of his huge dorsal fin that towers over the rest of his family’s but also a distinguished notch just below the tip. Like his younger brother, he surfaced sporadically, first off our bow then immediately off our port. 

    We cautiously followed the large male westward towards the Dungeness Spit Lighthouse which initially appeared as merely a dot on our horizon. This dot grew however and now loomed over us as we slowed to a stop to admire its grandeur. 

Suddenly from our starboard T065A5 appeared, proposing towards the sandy beach now at our port. Suddenly, any prior question of their behavior was crystal clear; these whales were hunting. “Elsie’s” tiny dorsal fin appeared only feet off the beach. His presence must've startled the hauled out Harbor Seals on the beach as he worked his way along the sandy shoreline, sending a crowd of seals further away from the waters edge. 

This particular family had been observed hunting off of sandy beaches in the past and I believe we were witnessing it again. 

With our time running out however we had to slowly move away from the family, passing T065A, “Artemis,” and her two children, T065A4 and T065A6, “Ellifrit” and “Butterbean” respectively.

As we flew back to Friday Harbor I realized how familiar I felt I had become with this family. They are one of the few families that I felt confident identifying independently at this point in my brief time here and have remained personal favorites of mine. It had been several weeks since I had seen the T065A’s and boy oh boy had I missed them.