September 16, 2021

Call Your Grandma!

Transient Orcas traveling near Lopez Island

Haleigh | M/V Sea Lion | September 16, 2021 | 2:00 pm


Family ties are incredibly important for many animals. Staying connected with your relatives is a way for information and culture to be passed down. For killer whales, older relatives act as a necessary resource for learning how to be an orca in the environment. Today, we witnessed the head matriarch of the T18 matriline, Esperanza, traveling with her youngest grandson, T19C Spouter. The two had split off from Esperanza’s daughter, T19 Nootka, and the oldest grandson, T19B Galliano.


We traveled alongside Esperanza and Spouter as they moved past the south side of Lopez Island. They made their way at a leisurely pace past the birds settled on the surface of the water. After a few minutes under the water on a deep dive, these whales surprised us by popping up on the opposite side of our boat! They were traveling at a much faster pace, now pointed diagonally towards the mouth of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Off in the distance we noticed Nootka and Galliano also headed towards us. These whales seemed to be trying to meet up! We stuck around long enough to witness a breach and spy hop by our whales who seemed to be signalling their other family members to meet up. Understanding these deeper family ties helps us empathize with these sentient, family-driven creatures. 


Before making our way back into Friday Harbor, we stopped by Whale Rocks to check out some Steller’s Sea Lions and Harbor Seals hauled out on the shoreline. These pinnipeds were lazily drooped over the rocks to escape the frigid waters. As we continued up San Juan Channel, a Bald Eagle intensely stared us down with its fierce eyes. It was a wonderful day in the Salish Sea full of wildlife.