September 3, 2021

Minke Whales, Bigg’s Killer Whales and a few surprises!

Bigg's Killer Whale


Maxx K. | M/V Kestrel | 09/03/2021 | 2:00pm

    Today was a pretty cold day. Grey clouds covered the sky and seemed to block out the sun as Kestrel raced down the San Juan channel towards the Juan De Fuca. In my time working on boats however, I’ve learned to really value a grey day. I find it’s much easier to spot whales or even simply disturbances on the water when there’s not an intense glare from the sun. A sharp black orca dorsal fin can be pretty hard to miss on a day like today. 

    We stopped for a brief moment at Goose Island to admire the nesting cormorants when all of the sudden, a mere 20 yards ahead of us, a Minke whale surfaced. This whale must’ve been working so hard considering the flood of water that was rushing into the channel. Time and time again it surfaced off our port. It would dive for two minutes and surface once again only 10 yards ahead. 

    We moved away and off towards the Whale Rocks to check out some Steller Sea Lions. We watched the sleeping giants for a few minutes before Solan and I had to make a decision. A small family of Bigg’s Killer Whales had been spotted far south, off the southernmost point of Whidbey Island. Getting there would take almost 50 minutes but there weren’t really other reports to follow up on. We had to do it!

    It took quite some time to arrive on scene with the T065B’s but they appeared almost instantly on our starboard!

T065B - “Chunk” - F - 1993

T065B1 - “Birdsall” - M - 2011

T065B2 - “Nettle” - 2019

    They moved slowly alongside us, surfacing one after another and soon taking consistent three minute dives. 

    As we traveled slowly and parallel to them on our port, someone spotted something odd off our starboard: it looked like a log, perhaps a big chunk of floating debris. When peering through our binoculars though we realized we were looking at something much cooler! This was a Northern Elephant Seal! 

    This massive behemoth sat at the surface of the water, just his head exposed above the surface. His nose flopped over his upturned head as it swiftly ate some sort of large fish- its tail still sticking out of the seal’s massive gaping mouth. Before too long it dipped itself below the water again, leaving us amazed at our first Elephant Seal sighting of the season!! 

Kestrel then caught up with the trio of whales, and watched them for 15 minutes off our port before they now surfaced at our bow. It was a fantastic final look at the 8,000lb whales before we made our long journey back to Friday Harbor. What a day out on the Salish Sea!