March 8, 2020

Bigg's Killer Whales Milling in the Haro Strait!

Bigg's Killer Whales in Haro Strait

Laura | M/V Sea Lion | 3/8/2020 | 12:00pm

    What a gorgeous day to spend out on the water!  I was so excited to head south through the San Juan Channel in glass calm seas, with blue skies and clear visibility!  Cattle Point is one of my favorite viewing spots for a multitude of pelagic birds readily seen diving in the area for small schooling fish.  Today there were pigeon guillemots, common murres, cormorants, and grebes in abundance!  The lighthouse along Cattle Point added finishing touches to a beautiful vast landscape of the Pacific Northwest.  Your eyes could scan up the west side of San Juan Island past South Beach and stretch as far west as the Olympic Peninsula. 

    As we rounded Cattle Point, passengers were equally surprised and thrilled to find at least twenty Steller sea lions vocalizing and moving around on Whale Rocks.  These social creatures were quite active today and some were seen swimming along the rippling water surrounding the rocks.  Two bald eagles stoically stood above the massive 2,400 lb pinnipeds.  With body weight maximizing at 7lbs, these birds held just as much weight as the sea lions, impressing guests equally by their charismatic presence. 

    M/V Sea Lion then steamed across the Haro Strait towards Discovery Island, B.C! It is certainly an exciting day when we are able to explore an area so close to Victoria.  Bigg’s killer whales were reported milling in the area, taking 5-7 minute dive times.  After a long journey through the Haro, we finally arrived!  There, five Bigg’s killer whales accompanied us, traveling slowly and with no clear directional pattern or intention.  These beautiful animals were later identified as T30Bs, consisting of a female born in 1993 and her two offspring.  T30B1 was born in 2012 and T30B2 in 2017, so it was great seeing such a youngster in the group!  The others were identified as T117B (2005 calf from T117) and a female, T172, estimated birth around 1989.  It was so interesting for us to witness this combination of whales traveling together and forming this particular structured unit.  Personally, it was my first time seeing these individuals!  We watched these killer whales move around the area so quietly, at times it was hard to keep track of their direction and anticipate where they were going to come up next.  Some passengers were very helpful in pointing out their exhalations or dorsal fins as they surfaced, making it much easier for all to see.  For a few surfacings, all five members of the group emerged through the water as a single unit.  Their blows reached towards the clouds in a flawless synchrony.  On a calm water day like today, it made watching them a truly magical experience!  We eventually had our last looks and made our way back into the San Juan Channel and safely docked in the harbor.  Everyone had a lovely day today and it was a perfect Sunday out in the Salish Sea!