July 5, 2020

Bigg's Killer Whales Feeding in San Juan Channel

Bigg's Killer Whales near Lopez Island

Olivia | M/V Sea Lion | July 5, 2020 | 17:30

They stayed! We received word that the family group of transient orcas we saw on our 1:30pm trip had started to porpoise south- fast! This made us nervous that we would not be able to have the same look at our favorite T65’s as we did previously. With our luck, they decided to stop and start milling around just south of Turn Island. Once we got on scene, we were the only boat viewing at that hour. This felt extra tranquil with the golden evening sun on our Starboard and the family casual rolling south on our Port.

All of a sudden, we did not see them anymore. Catching a quick glimpse of the shoreline on Lopez Island, we spotted the tall dorsal fin of T65A2 and the rest of the family following quickly behind. It was dinner time! They started lobtailing, cartwheeling, lunging in the same spot feeding on their go to food source, marine mammals. This was exciting for our guests as we shut down the engines over 200 yards away and sat in silence listening to their breathes, smelling the salty air, and feeling the warmth of the evening sun.

Not only did we chat about all the mind-boggling cetacean facts and about the experience we were having, but I also made sure the boat took conscience moments to take it in. The thing is, this was not just a cool whale trip watching these mammals feed, it was a moment in history.

Killer Whales learn from their mothers and grandmothers. Those behaviors, locations, and actions all get passed down generationally. Being a mother feeding with her four calves, this was a learning opportunity that is important for not only their species’ survival, but their family’s for generations to come. Her young females will eventually have calves of her own and start her own mini matriline where these same practices will be taught to them. This was a memory they will carry and share with other individuals as the years pass; remembering where to find food, how to work together, how to eat and what type of food. It was a humbling moment to realize these animals are not so dissimilar from ourselves. Yet another reason why our sunset trips feel so special.