September 3, 2022

Bigg’s Killer Whales the T069s in Saanich Inlet

Lauren | M/V Kestrel | 9/3/2022 | 2:00 PM

Labor Day weekend is upon us, and Friday Harbor is looking just as crazy and beautiful as ever! Our 2:00 pm Adventure Tour was totally sold out. With 20 guests aboard, Captain Eric and I zipped out of Friday Harbor and took a left into San Juan Channel. Our first stop was to Green Point, which is the southeastern tip of the infamous Spieden or “Safari” Island. We viewed several Mouflon Sheep grazing on grass before heading over to Flattop Island. Flattop is a National Wildlife Refuge which makes it a wonderful place to look for wildlife. We spent time with some hauled out harbor seals and even got to see a bald eagle perched up in a treetop! 

We got an exciting report that J Pod was headed down Boundary Pass, pointed at Turn Point Lighthouse. J Pod is one of three pods that make up the critically endangered Southern Resident Killer Whale population. Due to their endangered status, we are required to always stay a half mile away from them. This doesn’t make for ideal viewing conditions, but it does give us naturalists the perfect opportunity to let our guests know about the struggles they are facing. Prey availability is a huge problem for this salmon eating eco-type, as there is not currently enough salmon in these waters to sustain them. To learn more about the issues the Southern Residents are facing click the link below:  

https://www.whaleresearch.com/orcassalmon 

We waited until J Pod passed Stuart Island and cleared out of Boundary Pass into the Haro Strait. Once we had a safe clearing, we decided to follow up on a report of Bigg’s killer whales in Saanich Inlet. Saanich Inlet is located on the west side of the Saanich Peninsula on Vancouver Island. This Inlet is 16 miles long, so depending on how far these orcas had made it in, we could be in for quite the journey. We prepared for the long haul and started our cruise west.  

Not only was I excited to get the opportunity to show our guests both eco-types of killer whales that frequent the Salish Sea, but this group of Bigg’s killer whales (marine mammal eating eco-type) was a matriline I had never seen before! We were on scene with the T069’s. This family is made up of mom and her three offspring:  

  • T069 (Mom) “Komox”  
  • T069C “Kye” (Male) 
  • T069E “Kodiak” (?) 
  • T069F “Kin” (?) 

Komox has two other offspring that no longer travel with her. T069A and T069D are both females and have since broke off from their mother after having offspring of their own.  

We got some fantastic looks at this group of four as they cruised down the inlet. Since we came so far, we unfortunately couldn’t stay long, but what a beautiful experience it was!