March 29, 2021

Bigg's Killer Whale T Party with Surprise Guest- Chainsaw!

Strait of Georgia 4/28/18 P.C. Sarah McCullagh Strait of Georgia 4/28/18 P.C. Sarah McCullagh

Olivia | M/V Sea Lion | March 29th, 2021 | 13:00

M/V Sea Lion was chartered by an all-female crew today! Captain Sarah and I set out to have one of the craziest and most exciting days this 2021 season in the Salish Sea! We immediately left the dock with reports of Killer Whales in the vicinity. Not just any Killer Whales, though, there were rumors of SIX different families of Bigg’s Killer Whales- averaging around 22 transient orcas uniting on the upper west side of San Juan Island! HOW COOL!

We came on scene as the families were starting to spread out from one another. We stopped the vessel and watched as there were orcas 200-400 yards in every direction. We instantly recognized some familiar faces such as the T036A’s, T049A’s, and even the T010’s, but to our surprise we also caught sight of a family of Bigg’s rarely seen before, the T071’s! The females in this family stopped to feed near Battleship Island right when a very famous whale swam by 250 yards off our Port Side- T065 traveling with T063, aka “Chainsaw!”

Chainsaw is one of the most famous Bigg’s Killer Whales due to his unique dorsal fin comprising of two big notches right at the top. Despite being so famous, he is an elusive orca that spends a lot of time up in Alaska with T065. T063 is presumed to be related to one of our more familiar Killer Whales, T065A and her 5 kin, as well as T065B and her 2 children. The T065A’s and T065B’s frequent the San Juan Islands every summer and have become a local favorite.  Bigg’s Killer Whales typically travel in smaller family groups, just mom and her kiddos, to essentially be ‘sneakier’ coming up on their more intelligent prey of other marine mammals. However, today was a good reminder that they still appreciate socialization, family reunions, and a good hang out with their friends from time to time. While seeing these multi-family reunions is a common occurrence during peak season, it is not common to have such high numbers together- let alone in March! What a gift!

We were able to view them as they traveled towards Stuart Island, catching picture-perfect views as they hugged the shoreline. Their misty spouts left quite an aesthetic mark against the green pines on the sunny afternoon. I feel confident to say that this experience, in addition to all of Harbor Seals, Mouflon Sheep, Bald Eagles, and Steller’s Sea Lions, was one of the purest, most joyful spring days we have had this year. Let us take this as a sign for a beautiful upcoming 2021 season after the crazy ride 2020 gave us.

Strait of Georgia 4/28/18; P.C. Sarah McCullagh
Strait of Georgia 4/28/18; P.C. Sarah McCullagh
Strait of Georgia 4/28/18; P.C. Sarah McCullagh