September 26, 2019

Southern Resident Killer Whales in the San Juan Islands

Killer whale surfacing

Sarah | M/V Sea Lion | 09/26/2019 | 12:00pm

September continues to impress with great weather and amazing wildlife. Today we left Friday Harbor under blue skies, enjoying some early fall sun and warmth on land. As we motored out of the harbor we were all commenting that we were happy to have our warm layers as the temperature dropped with wind chill off of the water.

Captain Erick steered M/V Sea Lion north through San Juan Channel towards a report of some killer whales in Rosario Strait moving north towards the Strait of Georgia. We decided to head out towards the outer islands of the San Juan Islands: Patos, Sucia, and Matia. As we neared the islands we had a bit of wind kick up and enjoyed some of the power of the Salish Sea with some bigger waves. Captain Erick expertly maneuvered through the surf and we started seeing dorsal fins cut through the water.

We were treated to a wonderful encounter with some of the critically endangered Southern Resident killer whales. We got awesome looks at some of the J16 matriline: J26 “Mike,” J16 “Slick,” and J36 “Alki.” The whales surfed through the waves, tail slapping and breaching as they travelled north. We even got to see J26 “Mike,” a huge full-grown adult male breach all the way out of the water! While we watched the whales, we talked about their conservation status, how to help their population persist, salmon conservation, and the stories of their families. Every moment that we get to spend in the presence these days is precious and allows us to truly connect our guests to this amazing population. We spent thirty respectful minutes with the whales before heading out to look for some of the other abundant wildlife in the Salish Sea.

On our way back towards San Juan Island we stopped to check out some bait ball aggregations of sea birds, harbor seals, and harbor porpoise. It was a great day spent on the water, bring on tomorrow!

Filed by:

Captain, Lead Naturalist & Vessel Coordinator

Sarah M.

Sea Lion

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