August 16, 2021

Family of Bigg’s Killer Whales Hunting by Victoria, BC

Bigg's Killer Whale Family near Discovery Island

Haleigh | M/V Sea Lion | August 16, 2021 | 10:00 am


    What a spectacular whale adventure today! As we loaded up our trusty vessel the M/V Sea Lion we had a feeling we had some good whale sightings in store. We motored off to the south through the San Juan Channel before popping out through Cattle Pass on our way towards Victoria, BC. The tide was flooding through the bottleneck of the pass, causing some big chunky waves as we passed through. We swayed back and forth on the deck as we made our way southwest over the banks, before hitting gorgeous smooth water and blue sky once we crossed the border outside of Victoria.


    Then came the excitement - Killer Whales! We had made our way to observe the T18/19 family of Bigg’s Killer Whales, and there they were making their way along the shoreline. This is one of my favorite orca families out in the Salish Sea. They are a mature bunch, all fully grown adults living their adult orca lives. 


The matriarch T18, “Esperanza” is the grandmother, 66 years old and as energetic as ever. She is followed by her daughter, T19 “Nutka”, and her two large adult sons, T19B “Galiano” and T19C “Spouter”. Each son has a broad, towering dorsal fin (around 6 feet tall!), although Galiano’s fin is famously tilted to the side. They made their way in the shallow water close to shore, possibly on the prowl for a tasty harbor seal snack.


    In Orca families, grandma and mom call the shots, and their sons dutifully follow. They teach them the best hunting spots and techniques, their own dialect to communicate, and their customs passed down through generations of female orcas. We were treated to some really incredible views of this tight-knit family going about their daily lives together, and felt very lucky to share this moment with them.