April 7, 2019

Bigg's Killer Whales in the Salish Sea: Welcome home to the T065As!

killer whale

[Sarah | 04/7/2019 | M/V Sea Lion | 12:00pm]

Today Captain Brian and I took a lovely group of guests out to explore the Salish Sea. After a few days of windy conditions, it was nice to be out on the water in relatively calm conditions. We started our day by taking a left out of Friday Harbor, pointing north on the hunt for wildlife. This time of year is still considered early season for orcas, but we have enjoyed over 75% success rate this spring, so spirits and optimism were high!

We decided to stop at Spieden Island to look for some of our local pinniped species. At Green Point we encountered some Steller’s sea lions sunning themselves on the rocks. These huge sea lions are the largest in the world: males can be up to 12 feet long and weigh up to 2,400 pounds. Just around the corner, hauled out in the rocky intertidal zone we found a pair of harbor seals. These small seals are our most numerous marine mammals in the Salish Sea.

Speaking with some of the other boats on the water, we decided to cover some water that hadn’t been looked at yet, electing to head south into Haro Strait. As we reached Kellett Bluff on Henry Island, Captain Brian whipped the boat around and pointed back north, he had gotten a report of orcas 40 minutes north of our position. Any time whales are reported you cannot count on seeing them until you are looking at them. We pointed the M/V Sea Lion in their direction with all of our fingers and toes crossed that we might catch a glimpse of the whales.

We travelled north through President’s channel and towards the Outer Islands of the San Juans: Patos, Sucia, and Matia. As we neared the gap between Sucia and Matia Islands we started to see blows and dorsals! Orcas! We found the T065A family of marine mammal hunting killer whales spread out in and amongst the islands. We had our best looks at two of younger whales in the family group T065A2 and T065A4. These two adolescents were roughhousing and traveling travelling separately from the rest of their family for the duration of our encounter. We got awesome looks at T065A2’s distinctive dorsal fin with a notch at the top just like his mother T065A’s.

After a great encounter with the whales we decided to head south into Rosario Strait and then inter island back towards Friday Harbor. It was a spectacular day spent on the water watching incredible wildlife.