March 17, 2019

Never give up Hope!! Orca Sighting in the San Juan Islands

killer whales

[Sarah | 03/17/2019 | M/V Seahawk | 12:00pm]

What a beautiful day in the San Juan Islands! Captain Erick and I got to take out the M/V Seahawk from Friday Harbor under bright blue skies on the search for wildlife… and what the search we had. We decided to leave the dock and head south to start, motoring our way towards Turn Island to search for some seals as well as to look for whales and other wildlife in Griffin Bay. We got some great looks at harbor seals, our most numerous marine mammals here in the Salish Sea, before turning back north to scan the Shaw Island shoreline.

We pointed north up San Juan Channel towards Spieden Island, and found some Steller’s sea lions hauled out on Green Point. These massive sea lions are the larges otaarids (eared seals) in the world: males can reach lengths of up to 12 feet long and weigh 2,400 pounds. We got to see a huge raft of the massive pinnipeds in the water as well as the ones on land. As we watched the sea lions we also got to see a bald eagle soar past us.

Based on the sightings from the last few days Captain Erick decided to head further north to scan Boundary Pass and then the northern reaches  of Haro Strait around Stuart Island. We got great looks at Turn Point Lighthouse as we cruised through some of the deepest water in the San Juan Islands… just a mile to the north west right off of Turn Point the water is over 1000 feet deep!

As we started to head south again on our loop, a call came from our spotting network: a group of orcas had been spotted near the Shaw Island ferry terminal! There were no whale watching boats with them, so someone from our spotting network rushed in that direction to try to confirm the sighting. We headed in that way, and as we reached Jones Island the sighting had been confirmed! Today our whale sighting was a result of the continued teamwork and cooperation of all whale watchers on the water.

We wove through the Wasp Islands and ended up finding the T002C family of Bigg’s killer whales near Crane Island. This is an incredible family that frequents our waters usually in the spring and in the fall. Most notably there is a whale in this family group, T002C2 “Tumbo,” who has a severe kyphoscoliosis of the spine. This teenage male has only survived into his teenage years thanks to his amazing mother, and the rest of his family, hunting and caring for him.  We had amazing looks at the orcas before heading back towards Friday Harbor.

Today proved the point that it is never too late in the trip to find wildlife! We got our first looks at the whales when we were three and a half hours into our trip! Never give up hope…. Whales can literally pop up anywhere and anytime!