June 28, 2020

Bigg's Killer Whales Across the San Juan Islands

Bigg's Killer Whales near Friday Harbor

Olivia | M/V Sea Lion | June 28, 2020 | 13:30

Today as quite the adventure, and a well needed one at that! We started off the trip with the fastest introduction speech of wildlife and the Salish Sea that I have done to date. The reason for the rushed speeches as we set off was because there were whale sightings far away and heading north. Captain Pete was anxious to start our travels as soon as possible in order to give our guests that black and white glimpse they were itching to have.

We headed north through the San Juan Channel, cutting through President’s Channel around Waldron Island and straight for Patos and Sucia Islands where we initially had the reports of transient orcas. After passing the islands, we realized the orcas were still heading north away from us. To our luck, they slowed down just enough that after an hour and a half of traveling north- we found them! There were five Bigg’s Killer Whales making up the family group of the T46’s. She is a favored female among the transients and seems to be the unofficial matriarch similar to J2 of the Southern Resident Killer Whales.

We didn’t stay too long with this family, just long enough be in awe of the large, male dorsal fins against the Canadian backdrop (while still in US waters). We had been receiving reports that there was ANOTHER family group currently heading up the San Juan Channel from the southern end of Lopez Island. Therefore, we started our long journey back towards Friday Harbor. There were some initial large waves we had to venture through but were humbly pleased with the calm and sunny seas that awaited us amongst the inner islands.

As we headed down the San Juan Channel, we skipped right past Friday Harbor towards Turn Island to find the T77’s- four whales since T77B (their 20-year-old male) wasn’t traveling with them today. This was the cherry on top of a gorgeous day. Whale breath, spy hops, aesthetic photos against the pines and eventually the harbor itself. We made sure to take plenty of time to not only chat about these wonderous creatures, but also conscious moments to just appreciate the view in front of us.