April 18, 2021

Quadruple Sightings with Transient Orcas and Gray Whales Near Cattle Point!

Jordan | M/V Sea Lion | 04/18/2021 |1:00pm

Today was one of the most incredible trips of the season! I felt so grateful that all my guests got to experience such a lucky tour.

It began as a normal day as we enjoyed the Sunday sunshine in Friday Harbor. Everyone felt excited but a little nervous about what we may see during the trip. Captain Pete and I hopped on our boat, the Sea Lion, and headed down south towards the southern tip of San Juan.

As we approached Cattle Point lighthouse, we noticed boats off in the distance so we continued onward to investigate what they may have found. As we neared, there was suddenly a huge blow spouting near one of the boats! The people in the bow cheered with delight.

We slowly moved closer and saw it was a beautiful gray whale! Gray whales are not very common in the islands, so it was very exciting to find! We watched for a few minutes but then it disappeared under the surface. Looking all around, we tried to predict where it would emerge again.

Suddenly there was a BLOW!! The whale surface right next to our boat! We could see all the details of its beautiful, mottled back as it breathed and swam back towards the lighthouse.

Then, something else amazingly unexpected happened…Pete waves me over to him, points, and whispers “Jordan, there’s orcas right there!!”

My heart raced as we turned to get a closer look. Shimmering black dorsal fins pierced the surface of the water and seemed to be heading right towards the gray whale. Since these were transient orca whales (the ecotype that feeds on exclusively marine mammals), there was a possibility that the orca pod might want to hunt and eat the gray whale. We watched intently as both the orcas and gray whale surfaced closely together and all disappeared under the water. We cannot know for sure what happened in the sea, but eventually the killer whales surfaced calmly, and the gray whale suddenly appeared a mile away.

After watching the whales for a bit longer, we decided to get some more views of the gray whale. We turned and headed out towards Salmon Bank and happily watched this 40-foot whale calmly dive and show us his large fluke. His breath was so loud that we could hear his powerful exhalation from the boat!

Eventually, we headed back towards our island and got a closer look at Steller sea lions enjoying the warm day. They were probably very happy that the whales had left the area.

We boated up the San Juan Channel and found the orcas again. It was so tranquil and picturesque as we glided up through the islands and the whales led us right back to the harbor.

Thank you to all my wonderful guests who asked great questions and seemed to be as passionate and happy to see the whales as I was!

What a special day.