July 29, 2021

Playdate with +10 Bigg’s Killer Whales and multiple families!

Biggs Killer Whales Breaching

Haleigh | M/V Kestrel | July 29, 2021 | 2:00pm


I feel grateful for every day I spend on the water. On certain trips like today, it makes me think we all had some good karma in our favor. Calm waters and sunny weather made for an enjoyable departure headed inter-island. Passing through Orcas Island and Lopez Island, Mount Baker revealed itself for the most picturesque PNW image. We rounded through Peavine Pass, turning north towards Pea Pod Rocks. Lumped around the edges like a pack of guard dogs, we found Harbor Seals! These rock sausages were basking in the sun, soaking up the warm skies. Suddenly startled, a group of ~20 individuals lunged into the water while the gulls seemed unphased. Not long after, a Bald Eagle soared overhead spooking the birds that moments before sat peacefully still. 


We respectfully boated away, continuing north following reports of cetaceans near Lummi Island. We arrived at a scene of vessels but no cetaceans in sight. A few minutes turned to ~10 minutes of constant scanning knowing these whales could pop up anywhere. Finally we spotted them -- a group of Bigg's Killer Whales hugging the coastline along Lummi Island! They slowly made their way into the middle of the Rosario Channel, some of them tail slapping and rolling around along the surface showing off their undersides. All of a sudden, a breach! And then again, and again, and again! The young ones with their tiny dorsal fins lept out of the water and splashed down on their backs. One individual stood out to us as T37A4, named Crinkle for the squashed-looking dorsal fin. The rest of the orcas were identified to be:


T36A2 (2012)

T36A3 (2015)


T37A (1994) (Matriarch)

T37A2 (2007)

T37A3 (2009)

T37A4 (2013)

T37A5 (2015)


T49A2 (2007)


T77C (2006)

T77D (2009)


~T137 (1984) (Matriarch)

T137A (2002)

T137B (2006)

T137D (2012)


With only 2 matriarchs watching over ~10-12 kiddos, they zigged and zagged through the water. We watched a cluster of whales move tightly as a group, dive down and pop up again 300 yards away! At one point, a large male startled everyone on our boat as he surfaced >20 yards from our zodiac! We had some incredible sights with these whales and had our last looks as they moved south down Rosario Channel. We completed our trip with a circumnavigation of Orcas Island, checking out the blue hues of the northern islands as well as the contours of Vancouver Island. It was a truly perfect day in the Salish Sea.