September 21, 2021

Bigg’s Killer Whales Cruising Towards Victoria

Haleigh | M/V Kestrel | September 21, 2021 | 2:00 pm


Of the wildlife we see in the Salish Sea, about half of our summer inhabitants are migratory. Animals like Humpback whales, Gray whales, and Minke whales spend their summers here feeding due to the prey abundance. The other half of residential animals can be expected around the sea year round. One of those residential animals are our Bigg’s Killer Whales. Though their population ranges from the southern part of the Salish Sea all the way towards the Southern tip of Alaska, we tend to see specific families roaming the channels regularly. One of these families are the T18’s.


The T18’s are one of the more mature families of Bigg’s Killer Whales. The eldest female, T18 (Esperanza), is about ~65 years old. Her daughter, T19 (Nootka), is estimated to be ~50 years old. Her two sons, T19B (Galliano) and T19C (Spouter), are ~26 years old and ~19 years old. This mature family has been seen in most channels around the island and are one of the families I’ve seen the most of! 


Today, we caught sight of two members of the T18’s headed west through the Strait of Juan de Fuca towards Victoria. The other two members had split off and were found closer to the Olympic peninsula, also heading west. The smaller granny and large grandson were traveling tightly near one another, cruising at a consistently slow pace of about ~4-5 knots. We continued alongside them enjoying the calm seas and crystal blue water. Common Murres were everywhere, as their chicks are all developing and feeding on the Sand Lances found throughout these waters. 


When we decided to say goodbye to two of our favorite Bigg’s Killer Whales, we ended up stopping by to see a Gray whale passing through the area! This whale is likely making its way into the Pacific Ocean to begin its migration South towards Baja California. It was a really wonderful surprise to end our day with such a special baleen whale.