June 18, 2021

Porpoising Bigg's Killer Whales in Rosario Strait

Bigg's Killer Whales playing in Swell

Olivia | M/V Osprey | June 18th, 2021 | 12:30pm

It was an exploratory day circumnavigating Lopez Island! We set off inner island through Upright Passage and eventually crept between Blakely and Decatur to reach the larger body of water known as Rosario Strait. Just west of Burrows Bay, we began seeing multiple black dorsal fins piercing the water. Slowly making our way on scene, we were able to count 12 individual Bigg’s Killer Whales!

While this ecotype typically travels in small family groups of under 8 individuals, these social, sentient beings often group up together giving us surprise “T” parties! Formerly referred to as ‘Transient Orcas’, this mammal eating ecotype is becoming our more resident population with the Southern Resident Killer Whale population traveling way out of their historical range trying to find salmon. Thus, moving our terminology to ‘Bigg’s Killer Whales’, named after Marine Biologist Dr. Michael Bigg.

We watched as these Orcas spread out around our vessel in every direction, porpoising over the big swells. This behavior looked fun and exciting, especially with such large porpoising behavior, where their full bodies came up into the air. It appears Killer Whales like to play in the waves as well! After traveling outside of the high swells, we came upon Whale Rocks where we saw not only Harbor Porpoise hauled out, but also Steller’s Sea Lions. This included remaining males who have yet to migrate out of these waters for the summer in order to breed with their harems.

It was an exciting trip, filled with adventure, raw wild behavior and soaring Bald Eagles. Definitely one for the books and an ability to not only feel connected to the Earth that we call home but immerse ourselves into it.