August 13, 2019

Bigg's Killer Whales Hold Family Reunion near the Puget Sound

Piper | Tuesday, August 13, 2019 | M/V Sea Lion | 1:30 PM

The M/V Sea Lion left the docks in Friday Harbor today carrying some lovely guests along with Captain Pete, Erin, and myself! We left the marina and headed south through San Juan Channel to meet up with a group of Bigg’s orcas that were traveling south near Admiralty Inlet. This group of killer whales were marine mammal-eating and they consisted of many generations of the same family tree, broken up into two pods of five whales each, the T46s and the T46Bs.

When we arrived on scene, we began by viewing the T46Bs, a family consisting of mom and her four kids (including one orca born just earlier this year!). They were traveling in a tight group towards the south and we watched as they swam off our starboard side, surfacing ever so gracefully with each breath.

After we’d been with this group for a while, we began to see T46D (T46B’s little brother) encroaching on our port side. This orca is highly recognizable thanks to the two giant notches at the top of his fin. He took a long dive and eventually popped up off our bow, on the other side of the boat!

He was meeting up with his sister and her kids, and, as we soon realized, his mother and other siblings, who were coming in from the far side of everybody! We watched this family reunion and contemplated whether there might have been a bit of food getting trapped in the middle of the group (we had seen porpoises off our bow a bit earlier, after all)!

Shortly after they converged, we had to say goodbye to make it back to Friday Harbor in time, but what an awesome sighting! On the way back to the marina we even spotted a haul-out of Steller’s sea lions on the rocks near Cattle Point Lighthouse!