July 11, 2019

Magical Sunset Tour with "Exotic" Bigg's Killer Whales!

Piper | Thursday, July 11, 2019 | M/V Sea Lion | 5:30 PM

On this evening’s sunset cruise, we had two really lovely groups of folks visiting the Salish Sea for the first time! The M/V Sea Lion motored out of Friday Harbor and north through San Juan Channel, passing by some wee harbor porpoises and harbor seals swimming along the channel. Our destination was Plumper Sound amongst Canada’s Southern Gulf Islands where a hodgepodge of Bigg’s killer whales were hanging out together!

We arrived on scene and found five orcas swimming south through the sound, they were identified by their saddle patches as the T30Bs, a family which as been seen a decent amount in the Salish Sea, accompanied by T117B and T172 who are “exotic” orcas who don’t spend much time at all here! The T30Bs are a group of three whales made up of mom, T30B, born in 1993, and her two babes, T30B1, a seven-year-old, and T30B2, just two years old!

The five orcas slowly swam out of Plumper Sound and down into Boundary Pass where they headed west slightly before taking a break to rest and socialize. We floated with our engine off, something we like to do as often as we can, and watched as the three adults in the group spread out and appeared to just be having some “me-time” while the two young siblings played off by themselves.

We got to see the little two-year-old swimming around its older sibling, rolling around, attempting little baby tail slaps, and just having a grand ole time! Mom was nearby but she gave them space to play and just be kids, which is precious time for Bigg’s killer whales which have to be sneaky if they want to catch their next meal.

We dropped the hydrophone in the water and even got to hear some vocalizations, probably from the kiddos who couldn’t help but let out a squeaky whistle or two during their games!

The sun began to set, the clouds picked up a lovely orange color, and our boat slowly drifted out of range of these orcas before we switched back on the motor and headed back to Friday Harbor! On our way back we had a bald eagle cross our bow, catch something from the water and then fly back across our stern, and we spotted a tiny harbor seal just behind the boat after docking! Just an amazingly magical sunset trip!