April 29, 2019

Going the Extra Mile to See Whales in the San Juan Islands! Orcas Spotted!

[Sarah | 04/29/2019 | M/V Sea Lion | 12:00pm]

Today was yet another spectacular day out on the water in the San Juan Islands. We had amazing weather for a super long trip to find killer whales, and it was worth every moment on the water! Captain Pete and I decided to head south out of Friday harbor and, boy, did it pay off!

We travelled south through San Juan Channel and Griffin Bay popping out of Cattle Pass into the wide expanse of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The sky was a bright blue with scattered puffy clouds, and the Olympic Mountains were clear and beautiful with a dusting of snow. On the water we caught glimpses of harbor seals and various seabirds, like rhinoceros auklets, as we pushed south and west. Captain Pete had heard a rumor that there were potentially some killer whales near Port Angeles, so we headed in that direction.

As we reached the based of the Olympic Mountains we started to see blows and dorsal fins! Orcas! We had found a group of Bigg’s killer whales that had been reported by another whale watcher earlier. Wwe quickly realized that we one of the most famous whales in our area was present… The massive, tattered fin of T063 “Chainsaw” rose from the water as the whale exhaled at the surface. With T063 were the T167s, T65A’s, as well as his presumed mother T065. Like most male killer whales, T063 will stay with his mother for his whole life. Orcas form a matriarchal society, with the oldest female at the center of the social structure. We had a great encounter with the whales as they socialized at the surface and probably prey shared below the surface.

On the way back towards the San Juan Islands, we enjoyed amazing views and incredibly smooth water. We even got to stop to take a peek at some Steller’s sea lions as well as a bald eagle on our way back to Friday Harbor. Overall, we covered over 60 miles round trip in four hours and fifteen minutes of driving. It was one of the longer trips I have run in a while, but holy moly was it amazing!