June 17, 2019

Huge Group of Orcas in Boundary Pass and Also HBs! 06/17/19


Jordan | M/V Sea Lion | 06/17/19 | 12:00pm

What an unbelievably special day out on the water! The sun was shining brightly in the sky and filled everyone with excitement immediately. Captain Erick, naturalist Piper and I took our largest boat, the M/V Sealion out of Friday harbor towards promising prospects up north. We went up through the San Juan Channel, past Flattop Island and into Boundary Pass.

With Canada in the distance, we spotted our whales off the north point of Stuart Island! We found orca whales! They were the transient whales aka Bigg’s orca whales aka the marine mammal eaters! This was probably the largest groups of transients I’ve ever seen swimming together!

We identified the pod as the T46s and the T46As! Together, we watched 11 whales swimming closely together through the water. It was so fun to see this family clearly socializing together as they mingled in their tightly knit group and barely moved through the water. If they were traveling or hunting, they would have been moving a lot faster. But, just like our families, the orca whales will occasionally visit their distant families for socializing purposes and then separate back into their individual pods to be more successful with their hunting. Slowing down even more, they seemed to rest in the water, potentially taking a short cat nap before their next adventure.

It was so fun to watch this huge family. Then, we spotted a very special whale! T46B1B! This is our whale with leucism! Instead of a black body, he has a light gray body! Similar to albinism, this genetic condition makes this little whale very special. He was a little hard to see as he swam closely surrounded by the rest of his family!

Eventually we turned towards South Pender Island and found two humpback whales! We identified them as “Stitch” and “Divot.” This pair swam very close to the island as they methodically breathed and dove. They only held their breath for intervals of 4 minutes, so it was nice for us to see their huge bodies and 15-foot-wide tails popping up out of the water.

Eventually we headed back south past Turn Point lighthouse on Stuart Island. Then, we boated past Spieden Island and spotted some harbor seals along the shoreline! They were so well camouflaged; they really did look like rocks! Then we spotted a bald eagle hidden in a towering Douglas Fir tree near the shoreline.

What a fantastic day out on the water!