September 10, 2018

Exotic Alaskan Orcas Visit| 9/10/18| 1:00PM

Guests aboard Kestrel along with Cpt. Gabe and I were excited to get on the water with two great reports already within our reach. Headed out the harbor, we decided to go south towards Victoria, where a report of transients, not yet ID’ed, had been picked up. Taking the challenge and curious to see who these animals were, we quickly went down San Juan Channel. 

As we exited the channel through Cattle Pass, we made a pit stop at Whale rocks to greet our Steller Sea lions and even got a look at some harbor seals hauled out high on the rocks. After a couple of growls and head swaying from the sea lions, we decided to get on route again.

The less sheltered waters on our way to the Strait of Juan de Fuca were calm and glassy. The gray shades had already started to settle in mid day on this fall-like September day. On our way towards Victoria, scanning the waters for humpbacks, we were able to spot a few harbor porpoises and heaps of bait balls of common murres. 

Entering the Strait, we could not see any boats and got a bit worried. Where are these whales? Well past Victoria, we radioed another boat and it turned out the whales were moving very quickly and taking deep dives (about 10 minute dives). With this information, we rushed towards the other boat and waited patiently to hopefully spot those black dorsals cutting through the water.

Sure enough, we saw some black dorsals minutes after and then some more! There was about 6 animals in the water! After a couple of breaths, they went back down for what seemed to be eternity but about 7 minutes. After these 7 minutes, they popped up way down from where we had first seen them. This behavior continued for quite a while during the sighting and was kind of entertaining trying to figure out where they would come up next. Luckily we had guests with really good eyes on the boat ;). After a couple of dives, they started changing directions and being so unpredictable we could not have guessed what they were up to down there if we tried. After pondering on who these guys could be, without getting many good looks, one of the captains told us it was the T38s! This group was what we called exotics and rare to see in this area! Last spotted they were in Alaska! How interesting and special to see these exotic groups like these whales looking lost in our waters..

Mariana, Naturalist, San Juan Safaris