August 20, 2020

Bigg's Orcas travel in Haro Strait! (T60's and T2B)

Erick | M/V Sea Lion | 1:00PM | August 21, 2020

 

This afternoon there was the treat of rain in the sky but luckily it held off till later in the day. Captain Pete and I took out a great crew of passengers out to search for the local wildlife in the Salish Sea! We started by heading south. There were some early reports of Orcas down by Middle Bank of the southwestern side of San Juan Island. We headed straight there, and they were still travelling slowly parallel to the international border once we arrived. This was a group of Bigg’s (Transient) Orcas (Killer Whales) travelling together. This is one of the ecotypes of orcas that we see in our waters as well as up and down the west coast of North America (Turtle Island). They exclusively prey upon marine mammals. When they are in the Salish Sea they most commonly go after Harbor Seals and Harbor Porpoises. With that said though they have also been known to hunt Steller Sea Lions, Northern Elephant Seals, Minke Whales, and other marine mammals that travel through here. Once we arrived, we could see that this was a family group identified as the T60’s. Travelling with them was T2B which is a lone female that we do not often see but sometimes travels with various family groups. In the T60 family there is the matriarch, T60 and her 5 offspring – T60C, T60D, T60E, T60F, and the new T60G! They were all travelling close together and would sometimes break into smaller subgroups usually with the teenage males with their bigger but still growing dorsal fins lagging behind the rest. We were getting great views of these orcas and then T60C, the biggest male in the group, spyhopped! This means that he poked his head straight out of the water to look around. We could see his whole face as well as his huge pectoral fins! He was so big! It is always amazing to get a different kind of view of these incredible creatures. After that they started to pick up speed and might have been chasing some prey. We eventually had to leave, and they started to cross the international border. Captain Pete took us back towards Cattle Pass. On the way there we saw several groups of Harbor Porpoises. Once we reached Cattle Pass we stopped at Whale Rocks to look at the Steller Sea Lions there. These are like giant, swimming grizzly bears. The males are around a ton in weight and around 10-feet long! We watched these behemoths growl at each other and lazily look back at us. Behind them we could see Harbor Seals which are quite a bit smaller, but just as cute. We made our final stop along the San Juan Island shoreline and saw a Bald Eagle glowering back at us. It was another magical day out in the San Juan Islands!

 

Stay whale, folks

Erick