April 23, 2018

Bigg's Orcas and a Humpback Whale in the Strait of Georgia

Monday, April 23, 2018 | M/V Sea Lion | 12:00 Noon

What a gloriously sunny Monday afternoon in the San Juan Islands! Sitting here writing this, I can feel the sunburn set in over what are probably some fresh freckles, and it makes me so excited that summer is finally (nearly) upon us! Today Captain Mike and I led a great group of folks all the way up to Point Roberts, a funny little peninsula of US land attached only to Canada, just south of Vancouver. It was a long haul up there, but it was so worth it!

Along the way we got the clearest view of the islands and the Cascades that we’ve had in months, and once we arrived, we were on scene with a group of Bigg’s orcas, the T36’s. This is a group of four orcas, made up of the matriarch T36, estimated to have been born in 1970; T36B, a female born in 1998; T36B1, a grandchild of T36 born in 2009; and T36B2, another grandbaby born in 2013.

We watched as these orcas traveled pretty quickly from Point Roberts to Tsawwassen, to the cargo ship loading docks where they clearly made a kill, probably a harbor seal. We watched as they chowed down before we turned our sights back south.

We started crossing the Strait of Georgia when we came upon a humpback whale! We’ve just started seeing the first humpbacks of the year a few days ago so it was such a welcome sight to watch this behemoth breathe its giant breath in between dives! We watched this fella take two long dives, each time when it was about to go down, it arched its back nice and tall and threw its flukes in the air, angling down into the depths. Magnificent!

On our way back to Friday Harbor we passed by East Point on Saturna Island, where a nice big haul-out of Steller’s sea lions who were sharing the Gulf Islands with a group of harbor seals and a couple bald eagles!

Coming back through President Channel we made our final push for Friday Harbor and pulled into the docks juuuuuuust after four o’clock. It was definitely worth the extra few minutes to really enjoy all the wildlife the Salish Sea had to offer us today!