August 1, 2020

Bigg's Killer Whales and Deception Pass

Bigg's Killer Whales near Whidbey Island

Olivia | M/V Kestrel | August 1st, 2020 | 14:00

Today was easily in my Top 5 of Bigg’s Killer Whale experiences. Captain Brian and I knew there were two family groups of transient orca down between Whidbey and Camano Islands. However, we also knew there were Humpback Whales in north Rosario Strait. The dilemma? We REALLY wanted to see orca. Here were our options; 1) Go see Humpback Whales in North Rosario that have coverage by the PWWA, or 2) Go find these transient orca that had no coverage by the PWWA and risk going really far to potentially see no whales at all for our trip. Since Brian and I [as well as our passengers] are a big fan of the Hail Mary- off we went headed south!

We cut between Deception Pass which was my first time being there on the boat and boy was it GORGEOUS! This alone made our trip worthwhile. We continued south to end up just outside Penn Cove, south of Oak Harbor, between Camano and Whidbey Islands and almost immediately we caught eyes on the black and white dolphins! This was amazing! Since there was no coverage we knew it would be more of a challenge and definitely an adventure, but due to the whales deciding to hang out in the same area and also be playful breaching out of the water, we undeniably lucked out.

All 11 of them were breaching, lobtailing, cartwheeling, spy hopping, lunging, and porpoising. This was insane! Did I mention it was warm, sunny, and calm blue/green waters? Next thing we know there is a large female orca chasing around a Rhinoceros Auklet. Okay, we all know these are just dinner mints and hold no nutritional value, therefore we can only speculate it was for fun. This poor auklet was being chased from underneath the water and with every hit it was a full body breach, backslide, cartwheel, lobtail, or lunge. While Brian and I felt immensely terrible for our beloved Rhinoceros Auklet, this was sincerely a better experience and definitely superior footage than anything I have seen on a nature documentary. My mind is absolutely blown by this.

After seeing a large male sea snake and continued playful actions, we decided to shut down the engine and just sit to watch in awe. No noise, no movements, just watching these free willed, intelligent animals be themselves. To our authentic surprise, we got mugged by a large female Bigg’s Killer Whale, not only that, but a larger was following underneath her turned on his back. WHAT. I am still in utter amazement of this species. They were so completely at ease, happy, excited, flirty, curious, feisty. This will hands down be a trip to remember and a continued reminder that the Hail Mary can be the best move of all.