April 28, 2018

Rare Whale Alert! Chainsaw the Orca spotted in the San Juan Islands! (Thursday, April 26, 2018)

Killer whales surfacing in front of Mt. Baker

[Sarah – 04/26/2018 – M/V Sea Lion – 12:00pm]

M/V Sea Lion left Friday Harbor on a late April day that felt more like the middle of July! The sun was shining, the temperature was warm, and we had a rumor of whales in the area to start our day!

Captain Brian and I decided to head north towards Patos and Sucia Islands, weaving around Jones Island, and then northeast through Presidents Channel between Waldron and Orcas Islands. There were beautiful views of Mt. Baker and the Canadian Coast Range in British Columbia. We pressed further north into the smooth waters of Boundary Pass and into the large expanse of the Strait of Georgia.

Brian slowed the boat and pointed up ahead, a group of orcas surfacing! We spent a bit of time with the first group of killer whales, who turned out to be the T036s, a family of four Bigg’s killer whales. Bigg’s killer whales are marine mammal eaters, in our waters that means that about 60% of their diet is comprised of harbor seals. We watched as this small family swam north at a good clip, before leaving to check out a second group of orcas.

We motored slowly across the Strait before seeing the massive exhalation of a male orca hanging in the air. His massive dorsal fin cut through the water… the top third of his fin missing two huge chunks. That fin was unmistakable! T063 “Chainsaw” has been the whale that I have circled in all of my field guides for the last five years out on the water as my “bucket list” individual. Rarely seen in the inland waters, this fully-grown, 40 year-old travels with his presumed family member, the female known as T065. This beautiful female is potentially T063’s mother or sister and not his “mate”, as killer whales live in a female dominated, matriarchal society cetered around familial relationships. We got several great looks at the two whales, before peeling away to check out some other wildlife.

Before moseying back to Friday Harbor we had the opportunity to catch views of some Stellers’ sea lions, harbor seals, bald eagles, sea birds, and, of course, more of the beautiful landscape of the San Juan Islands!


Filed by:

Captain, Lead Naturalist & Vessel Coordinator

Sarah M.

Sea Lion


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