September 17, 2022

Minke Whale and Surprise Orcas

Elle | M/V Osprey | 9/17/2022 | 1:30PM

Today we headed out of the harbor with no whale sightings reported nearby. Because none of the whales in this area have tags that report their location, we rely on our own visiual sightings and our partners in the Pacific Whale Watch Association to find wildlife here in the Salish Sea. We know that small, schooling fish like to congregate on banks (underwater hills) like the ones just south of San Juan Island. We also know that seals, sea lions, and baleen whales feed on those fish, so we headed south to see of anyone was foraging today. In Griffin Bay, we spotted a Steller's Sea Lion, which passed right alongside our boat after feeding on a skate. Next, we fount a huge baitball, indicated by birds on the surface hunting the small fish. At Salmon Bank, we encountered a minke whale feeding, and even got to see it drive straight through a baitball, scaring away the birds at the surface. As we watched the minke feed, another type of whale surfaced nearby.

A family of Bigg's killer whales, the T07s surprised us! We witnessed this family (which had never been spotted by any of the crew onboard) chasing and eating a smaller mammal under the surface. Their prey was likely feeding on some of the same small, schooling fish as the minke whale. 

Today's sightings beautifully illustrated the food-chain here in the Salish Sea. They were also a happy birthday surprise for our captain, Michael!