April 12, 2019

Orca spotted in the San Juan Islands

T077A lone male killer whale

[Sarah | 04/12/2019 | M/V Sea Lion | 12:00pm]

Today was a fantastic day spent in the Salish Sea. The sun was shining, the water was calm, and we had wildlife to find! Leaving the dock in Friday Harbor we had no reports of whales in the area, but we didn’t let that dampen our spirits. Reports can change and come in at any time, so we elected to head north on a search pattern.

Just after we left the dock Captains Erick and Brian got a report of a whale to our east, we quickly ducked inter-island, enjoying the amazing scenery all around us and the soaring bald eagles overhead, pointing in the direction of the report. We crossed Rosario Strait, pointed at Cypress Island, and started looking for the dorsal fin and blow of an orca!

We found a lone male killer whale traveling close to the rocks and the reefs between Sinclair and Lummi Islands. Lone male Bigg’s killer whales are definitely not the norm, but are not uncommon. We have a few individuals in our population who are known to travel by themselves, away from their mother’s family. We can identify all of the whales in our area by their unique dorsal fins and saddlepatch markings right behind the dorsal fin. Sometimes these whales can have very similar markings or scars that are only distinguishable by comparing photos to our existing identification guides.  Today, on the water, the whale we encountered was originally identified as T049C, but upon closer inspection we were actually looking at T077A! The two whales are so similar, check out their official ID photos from the Center for Whale Research below!

After a great, respectful encounter with the lone orca, we started meandering our way through the San Juan Islands back towards Friday Harbor.

ID photos for T077A on the left and T049C on the right!
ID photos for T077A on the left and T049C on the right! Center for Whale Research & Erin Gless