August 14, 2022

An Orca Hunt at the Peapod Islands


MV Kestrel




There is something very special about morning whale watch tours. The cool breeze off of San Juan Channel hitting our faces snapped us out of our last morning grogginess. Most days we are one of the first boats out on the water, leaving it up to our eyes and patience to see what we can find!


Our first stop was at the Pea Pod Islands in the Rosario Strait where we found dozens of harbor seals hauled out along this rocky island shoreline. It was a great visual of the variety of coloration our population of harbor seals has here in the Salish Sea. We also caught some glimpses of small pups nursing on their moms. 


We continued north up the Rosario, scanning shorelines for dorsal fins and blows. The calm water and sunshine made for fantastic scanning conditions and before I knew it … black triangle dorsal fins hugging the coast of Decatur Island!

For nearly an hour we had the privilege of viewing two pods of Bigg’s killer whales, the T99’s and T36B’s. We watched with anticipation as the 99s, led by matriarch “Bella” T099 b. ~1984, beelined for the Peapod Islands. As the harbor seal is the main food source for this ecotype of orca, we assumed this family was foraging for food. 


Our speculations were confirmed as we watched splashes, thrashes and even a twisting breach right in the bull kelp surrounding the harbor seals. What an exciting encounter! 


We returned to the dock energized by these apex predators and their fierce hunting showcase.