September 9, 2021

Family of Bigg’s Killer Whales, T18’s, with a Surprise Gray Whale Visit!

Bigg's Killer Whales Traveling near Cypress Island

Haleigh | M/V Sea Lion | September 9, 2021 | 1:30 pm


Our classic whale watching tour took off smoothly with blue skies around us and a boat full of passengers excited to search for wildlife! We began heading south through the San Juan Channel headed towards the Strait of Juan de Fuca. As we came through Cattle Pass, the smell of harbor seals and Steller’s sea lions wafted towards our vessel and drew us closer. We listened to the growls and play fighting by these toasty-brown males as the gulls and cormorants dove and landed all around them on Whale Rocks. 


We continued moving Southeast and angled our vessel to travel around the southern end of Lopez Island scouting for wildlife in the large open banks to our South. We made our way up through Rosario Strait making it nearly back to Anacortes where we picked up a family of Bigg’s Killer Whales! This family of four, known as the T18’s, was hugging the east-facing coastline of Cypress Island. Two large males (Galliano and Spouter) surfaced, each with a ~6 foot dorsal fin, followed by the slightly smaller fins of their mother, Nootka, and grandmother, Esperanza. Their travels were mostly consistently north facing, except for one quick criss-crossing motion that makes us think they may have been feeding! They eventually rounded the tip of Cypress to continue their path further north, providing the perfect exit time from these whales. 


As we made our way back towards Friday Harbor, we caught a surprise appearance of a Gray Whale! This was only my second time seeing a Gray Whale this summer as they spend much of their time feeding on ghost shrimp in shallow waters like bays and coastal inlets. Our time was short, but so sweet knowing this ~40-foot baleen whale is starting its migration to its protected breeding lagoons of Baja California. 


It was a lovely trip that each guest enjoyed. We always feel fortunate to have any wildlife sighting, and today was no exception!