July 2, 2018

Orcas and A Humpback in the Afternoon | 07/01/2018 | 01:30pm

Killer whales surfacing

Sarah | 07/01/2018 | M/V Sea Lion | 01:30pm


The sun was shining and we had flat water as Captain Mike steered the M/V Sea Lion north out of Friday Harbor towards the Canadian Gulf Islands. We had a lovely and lively group of guests on board ready to find some wildlife!

As we cruised north we stopped to check out some harbor seals hauled out on the rocks around Flattop Island. These little pinnipeds are some of our most common marine mammals in the inland sea, with some population estimates as high as 200,000-300,000! The seals were sprawled out on the warm rocks enjoying some of the afternoon sun. As we motored further north we caught glimpses of harbor porpoises and pigeon guillemots.

Crossing that Canadian border and heading up into the Canadian Gulf Islands, we enjoyed the spectacular sandstone scenery contrasted against the super blue sky! As we rounded East Point and cruised through Tumbo Channel Captain Mike stopped the boat so that we could observe some bald eagles on the shore and in the trees! We even got to see one of the massive birds feeding on what appeared to be a young harbor seal pup on the rocks! As we continued north we got awesome looks at more eagles, and even at some turkey vultures!

As we popped out into the Strait of Georgia, we started to see knife-like, black dorsal fins cutting through the water… exhalations over the water too! Orcas! We were lucky enough to find two families of Bigg’s killer whales, the T036As and the T049As, zigging and zagging through the rolling water. These are two awesome little familes led by two amazing mamas! Killer whales are matriarchal, staying with their mom for their entire life, so mothers are absolutely central to their social structure. We enjoyed several great looks at the whales before heading south again on the search for more wildlife!

As we headed back south, we got word that there was humpback whale in the area… we can never say no to more whales! We found the massive whale just south of Sucia Island near Parker Reef. Unlike orcas, humpback whales are usually solitary, so to have one whale by itself is not unusual… it’s the norm! We waited for the huge whale to come up for a breath sequence, and after its giant exhalation we were treated to an awesome fluke-up dive! Moments after the dive the school-bus-sized whale erupted from the water in a full breach! After crashing down the whale threw its rear end, referred to as the caudal peduncle, through the air in a behavior known as a peduncle throw or cartwheel. As soon as it crashed down yet again the whale raised one of its pectoral fins into the air, and then slapped the surface of the water! It was a perfect cap to the amazing day we had on the water!

Filed by:

Captain, Lead Naturalist & Vessel Coordinator

Sarah M.

Sea Lion


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