June 29, 2018

Long (but worthwhile!) Trip for Orcas on M/V Kestrel

Bigg's Orca

Naturalist Sarah | 06/22/2018 | M/V Kestrel | 10:00am


What a whirlwind of a trip! Leaving Friday Harbor, Captain gabe and I had no reports of orcas… not unusual for our morning trips! Since we work with a spotting network spread out through the region, usually our sightings start rolling in as boats leave their harbors. We decided to leave our slip and head north through President’s Channel towards what we call the Outer Islands of the San Juans: Patos, Matia, and Sucia Islands. The water was amazingly glassy as we pushed north. Stopping at the Patos Island light we got great views of some upwelling and harbor porpoises as we spun in the smooth but tumultuous water.


The radio buzzed to life, Captain Gabe lifted the speaker to his ear… and motioned to me that we were going to keep heading north into the Strait of Georgia. He had gotten a report of whales who were way up north travelling across the wide Strait, if we left NOW we could catch them. The water was glorious and we got beautiful views of the Canadian Gulf Islands. By the time we got into the reported area, we were further north than either Gabe or I had been before in our whole careers!


We found the reported group of orcas, the T137 family, travelling at around 10-12 knots towards the city of Vancouver. I am particularly fond of oldest son in this matriline, T137A “Jack”. He has an incredibly distinct dorsal fin with two notches out of the trailing edge… and this teenager is growing like a weed! He is well regarded as one of the most acrobatic whales in the Bigg’s Killer Whale community. As we watched, all of a sudden there were definitely more than the four whales that we were originally watching. We had at least seven to nine more whales materialize in front of us! Quickly surveying the fins, we might have had the T077s and others in the group. The whales were jubilant as they met up… tail slapping and throwing their bodies out of the water! With a long trip home ahead of us Captain Gabe and I reluctantly peeled away from the travelling whales, heading back south towards the San Juan Islands.


Later on in the evening I ran into a fellow whale watch naturalist and Captain from another company. All we could do was shake our heads, “Could you even believe how cool that was today?!”


Filed by:

Captain, Lead Naturalist & Vessel Coordinator

Sarah M.



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