October 4, 2016

Steller's Bane: T37A's & T65B's Orcas and Humpback Whales!

Transient Orca

Yesterday was another wonderful day on the water. Fall still has amazing wildlife to show off here in the San Juan Islands. We headed north to start the search for whales yet again. We went all the way up into the Canadian Gulf Islands which are still beautiful but in a different way. As you move north into the Southern Gulf Islands of Canada the islands become taller and closer together crating these beautiful narrow passageways that we got to motor through yesterday. We went through Plumper Sound with huge trees and Bald Eagles dotting the coastline around us and as the water got narrower we entered Georgenson Pass and eventually entered the Strait of Georgia. We soon saw black fins in the distance and as we approached we saw that it was a group of Transient Killer Whales attacking a Steller’s Sea Lion. This is what dreams are made of. I usually wake up and hope for a Sea Lion getting tossed in the air acrobatically by multiple orcas, and today was that day. It was two families, or matrilines, of Transient (Bigg’s) Killer Whales attacking this Sea Lion. This sounds a little unfair but Steller’s Sea Lions are like Giant Grizzly bears that can swim. They are around 11 feet long and weigh more than a ton, and have very sharp claws and teeth. It was incredible to see these two families, the T37A’s and the T65B’s work in concert and gracefully to kill this sea lion and then eat it. We watched for around 30 minutes as it got tossed around and then eventually got devoured. Next we headed south in the Strait of Georgia towards East Point on Saturna Island where we saw two Humpback Whales travelling and resting near the Patos Island lighthouse. It’s not usual to see two huge species of whales in one day, but today was a lucky one! After we talked about all the differences in these two species we said adios to those two gentle giants and continue on our way to Friday Harbor watching Harbor Porpoise and Harbor Seals along the way! Whale folks, until next time!

 

Naturalist Erick

M/V Sea Lion

San Juan Safaris