August 26, 2019

Humpback and Killer Whales Swimming South of Lopez Island

Bigg's Killer Whales in the Strait of Juan de Fuca

Olivia | August 26th, 2019 | M/V Kestrel | 11:00am

What a fun morning on the water! Captain Gabe received reports of several whales nearby, so we set out south through San Juan Channel. With our whales just south of Lopez Island, we decided to stop at Whale Rocks and check out the largest sea lions in the world- Steller’s Sea Lions! There were heaps of them bellowing over the water, swimming along the shoreline of this mini island, and snoozing in the sunshine. We also acquired some good looks at Cormorants drying out their wings after their deep dives feeding. Since we knew exactly where the whales were, we decided to take a lap south of salmon Bank into the Strait of Juan de Fuca and check out some areas of the water that haven’t been scoped out for possible Minke, Humpback, and Killer Whales.

On our lap back there were tons of bait balls and jumping salmon to keep us entertained. As we swooped around north just near Mc Arthur Bank, we found a Humpback Whale that was lunge feeding everywhere! This particular Humpback was very non directional, zig zagging, not diving very deep or very long, and just kind of taking laps around munching near the surface as much as possible. Because we actively keep our distance of 100 yards from any Baleen Whale and he was so unpredictable, Captain Gabe decided to shut off the engine and just observe his next move. We watched as he lunged out to feed AND he mugged us! Despite never seeing this whale’s fluke, it was such an epic encounter.

We didn’t have to travel far to find our (transient) Bigg’s Killer Whales, because they were just around the corner traveling along the shoreline. We had the family group of T99’s swimming, hunting, and continually swimming north into the channel, so much so, we were able to view them from Iceberg to Deadman Island where we left them to head back to Friday Harbor. M/V Kestrel is faster and can move further through our Salish Sea within our 3 to 4 hour trip, but it’s not every day we get lucky enough to see whales so close within our range. We were grateful they made our job easy and had a fantastic morning on the water!