June 11, 2018

Orcas and Humpback Whales Hang out around Patos Island

Bigg's Orcas

[Sunday, 6/10/18 - M/V Sea Lion - Noon - Naturalist Erick]


On Sunday, Captain Pete, myself, and one of the new Naturalists, Jordan, left with a super group aboard M/V Sea Lion to search the Salish Sea for all it’s wonderful critters. First, we made our way towards the outer islands of the San Juan archipelago. These Islands are where the U.S. and Canada border is located and are more sparsely populated then the four main islands a little bit south. Just north of PAtos Island with its Lighthouse we spotted a whole group of Bigg’s Orcas. These are the orcas that inhabit this area and feed on marine mammals in contrast to the Southern Resident Orcas that also inhabit the northwest coast and only feed on fish. This was a group of two families that were definitely hunting and eating the whole time we were watching them in the quick currents and whirlpools in between Saturna and Patos Islands. They were going up and down in one spot as they killed and shared their prey with each other in a glorious feast. Their most common prey here is HArbor Seal and that is what I imagine their were eating. When Orcas eat and just after they are usually pretty frisky so they started playing as well! We saw a lot of tails and pectoral fins and a few of the younger ones even jumped out of the water! Just as we were about to leave we also saw a spyhop! This is when a whale sticks its head straight up and down out of the water to look around to see what’s going on above the water’s surface! We eventually left the orca families we were watching - the T75B’s, T75C’s, and the T49A’s - and headed back west. Just around east point off of Saturna Island we saw more blows! This time it was two Humpback Whales! These whales are several tens of tons bigger than orcas and feed on tiny organisms like krill (a small shrimplike creature). We watched them as they slowly moved through the swirling water of Boiling Reef and just as we were about to leave they fluked up and showed us the bottoms of their gigantic tails as they started a long, deep dive! After that we had to head back towards Friday Harbor but we got to stop at Flattop Island on the way back to see a bunch of Bald Eagles soaring and a few (alive) Harbor Seals resting on the rocky shoreline. Whale folks, until next time!


Naturalist Erick

San Juan Safaris