August 28, 2020

Bigg's Killer Whales Hunting Marine Mammals in San Juan Channel

Bigg's Killer Whales in San Juan Channel

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

It was a flawless day out on the water this afternoon. Captain Pete and I were lucky enough to inform our passengers that we were leaving the dock with a rumored whale report in the area, which already made it a special day. What was even better? The rumor was that the whales were just south of Jones Island, right in San Juan Channel. Who on our boat has good karma?! Scooting up to Jones Island, we caught sight of those black dorsal fins leaning over the glassy salt water. We had roughly six individuals divided between Jones and Waldron Islands, but right as we got on scene, we watched as they started to swim to the same area and join up to galivant around together.

Let me break this down a wee bit. Most whale watching trips, we leave the dock with no sightings as most of the whale watching or research vessels start to leave the dock at roughly the same time. Since these free-willed whales can travel over 100 miles in a day, we never know where they are going to be. Therefore, everyone in the PWWA divides among the Salish Sea to be sure all the waters are being scouted. This not only allows for our passengers to have a greater chance of seeing a marine mammal, but allows us to keep track of population counts, health, safety, and how environmental factors are impacting these cetaceans. Often, we travel about an hour and a half to see whales that could be sleeping, milling, or traveling quickly by.

All these factors contribute to the fact that today felt so unique, special, and of course, making Pete and my jobs look way too easy. The crazy part? These six Bigg’s Killer Whales were not just next to San Juan Island, but they were breaching! Double breaches, lobtails, spy hops, hunting behaviors, feeding, lunging, cartwheeling… the list goes on! What a cool day, I cannot express this enough. The family group, T037A’s, were so rambunctious, the entire boat was lifted in delight.

We eventually left these whales near Sandy Point on Waldron Island and drifted between Cactus Islands and around Spieden Island. We were able to see Mouflon Sheep, Fallow Deer, Harbor Seals, Bald Eagles, and a Bald Eagle nest. We wrapped up the trip still giddy about the complete ease and perfection of the Transient Orca in San Juan Channel and the immense opportunity we had to chat and learn more about this spectacular species.