June 19, 2021

Bigg’s Killer Whales, Humpback Whale and Friday Harbor Surprise

Bigg’s Killer Whale

Maxx K. | M/V Kestrel | 06/19/2021 | 2:00pm

    By the time Brian and I left Friday Harbor the rumors of Killer whales north of us were consistent. With Kestrel filled with excited guests we turned northbound through San Juan Channel and up towards Stuart island. 

    When we arrived at the Cactus Islands we briefly stopped to observe some harbor seals hauled out on and swimming amongst the rocky islands, seemingly unaware of the potential black and white dangers that had just passed through a few brief moments earlier. 

From the reports we were receiving from other vessels in the area, the two orca we were with on our early morning tour, T077C (Neftali) and T077D (Alcyon), had circumnavigated Stuart Island. When we arrived on scene with them they had just turned around the Stuart Island Lighthouse where their behavior then changed. Soon enough they were tail slapping and milling around at the base of the cliffside below the lighthouse. 

We left these two rambunctious siblings after a little while and continued our journey eastward towards Waldron Island. We held onto our hats as the wind picked up and the Kestrel powered through the chop when out of nowhere, a humpback appeared off our port side. This whale wasn’t diving or fluking very often, choosing to take much shallower dives as it made its voyage eastward, at one point even crossing directly under our boat to appear on our starboard moments later. With one last great look at this absolutely massive animal, it fluked for us, waving us goodbye as we made our way back towards Friday Harbor. 

Now typically this would be the end of a very successful tour already. But if I’ve learned anything working here on the Salish Sea, it’s to be prepared for anything. Just as we rounded the corner point caution two more Killer Whales appeared, apparently having just swam through the Ferry terminal in Friday harbor. These whales were seven year old T065A5, Elsie, who was being babysat by 14 year old T037A1, Inyo. Despite being from different families, it is not uncommon to find Bigg’s Killer Whales hanging out or traveling with members of other families. However, seeing Orca in Friday Harbor is not a common occurance and was an absolute surprise and delight for the guests and crew of Kestrel. 

We watched them as they slowly worked their way up the San Juan Channel before turning Kestrel back into the harbor, completing one of the most eventful tours I’ve had yet here with San Juan Safaris.