October 27, 2019

Bigg's killer whales, Humpback whales, Seals and Porpoises Fill Up the Salish Sea!

Bigg's Killer Whales in the Salish Sea

Laura C.| M/V Sea Lion | 10/27/2019 | 12:00pm

Today was a glorious day out on the water with Captain Sarah!  M/V Sea Lion headed north bound towards Active Pass with rumors in the atmosphere of Bigg’s killer whales!  We were all surprised of how many harbor porpoises were seen along the way!  As we passed Shaw Island, it was obvious how productive the waters were today with a plethora of wildlife to observe.  The swirling currents produced an abundance of phytoplankton for some small schooling fish clustered into bait balls at the surface!  Many different species of birds were seen including common murres, marbled murrelets, pigeon guillemots (many in their beautiful non-breeding plumage), mergansers, and grebes.  Harbor seals accompanied the harbor porpoises and birds reaping the benefits of the abundance of fish in the Salish Sea today.  Feeding frenzies are one of my favorite things to see out on the water.  There is an exciting mystery of not knowing what may be dining below the surface and anticipating what may be about to come up for a breath!

As we maneuvered through some current changes by East Point and headed into the Strait of Georgia, we were greeted by a humpback whale!  This humpback whale was taking quick three to four-minute dives and brought his/her fluke up out of the water with exquisite grace before submerging back into the chilly sea.  M/V Sea Lion was the only vessel around this individual, so it was meaningful to witness this whale by ourselves and connect with our surroundings.

After a quick journey further up the Strait of Georgia with gorgeous mountain views, we absorbed our first orca sightings with joy and enthusiasm!  The T49As were actively hunting and circling what can be presumed to be a carcass of a Salish Sea marine inhabitant.  There were plenty of harbor seals and porpoises seen on our voyage, so these waters provide many meals needed to support this population of Bigg’s killer whales.  T49A was born in 1986 and has had four offspring to date.  T49A1 is a male who was traveling alone a few miles away near another whale watching vessel.  This is not uncommon for younger males to exhibit this behavior, and they eventually return to their families.  T49A4 is the youngest, born only in 2014 and was easily distinguished from his/her larger siblings.  At one point Captain Sarah decided to shut off our engine and it was perfect timing because a few minutes later we were greeted unexpectedly by the family passing by our boat!  Passengers watched in excited silence to appreciate what was happening before their eyes and to take in this special moment to its fullest extent!  After that last fantastic view, we safely headed away from the orcas and towards home.  Along the way we found Dall’s porpoises, harbor porpoises and more seals!  This was my first time seeing Dall’s porpoises in my naturalist career so today was quite a memorable day for everyone on board!