August 31, 2022

From Stuart to Spieden: A Coastal Cruise with 7 Bigg’s Killer Whales

Lauren | M/V Kestrel | 8/31/2022 | 2:00 PM

Today was the last day of August, which means our peak season for whale watching will soon be coming to an end. We see whales on 90% of our tours from June through August. Our “peak season” doesn’t actually refer to the peak of whale action, but the peak of eyes on the water. None of the whales in the area are tagged, and we don’t use any kind of sonar to find them. As members of the Pacific Whale Watch Association (PWWA), we work organically off eye sighting reports. As we get into fall and winter, there are less boats out on the water, which means there are less people looking. Making it easier for whales to slip right on by.  

August may be slipping away, but today sure didn’t feel like the end of the season. Today the PWWA found whales a plenty. We had a firm interisland whale report before even leaving the dock! 

Our 2:00 pm Adventure Tour cruised out of Friday Harbor and headed north. Although we had knowledge of a whale report, there were already a few boats with those whales. We operate cohesively with other companies and “pass” the whales off to one another to respect their space. Therefore, we decided to go look for some wildlife first. We stopped at Flattop Island and spent some time with a few hauled out harbor seals. We also got to see a beautiful bald eagle. Next, we went further into Boundary Pass to see if we could find any unreported whales. Boundary is known for being a great place to spot humpback whales! 

After spending time scanning with no joy, it was time to head over to that interisland whale report. When we got on scene, members from two matrilines of Bigg’s killer whales were traveling together in a tight group along the west side of Stuart Island. This group was made up of members of the T049A’s and T019 “Nootka” and T019B “Galiano.” We stayed with this group of 7 as they hugged the shoreline from Stuart to Spieden Island. Galiano is a large 27-year-old male with an iconic dorsal fin. Not only is his dorsal fin extremely tall and wide, but it also has a slight curve at the top. Getting to see this massive whale is always a treat. The T019’s and the T049A’s are frequent flyers (or should I say swimmers) in the Salish Sea! Getting the opportunity to see these whales mature and expand their families is so cool. T049A recently just had a calf earlier this year, her sixth offspring! Seeing little T049A6 swim next to a giant whale like T19B Galiano puts it all into perspective. This was the perfect way to kiss August goodbye!