June 15, 2021

Surprise Bigg’s Killer Whales off Orcas

Bigg’s Killer Whale

Maxx K. | M/V Kestrel | 06/16/2021 | 2:00pm

Today was yet again, another prime example of how unpredictable and serendipitous a whale watch can be out here on the Salish sea. Kestrel left Friday harbor heading north. We weaved between Jones Island and veering right to pass between Orcas and Waldron following reports of a humpback just north of Sucia island. 

We stopped only once to observe a shoal of harbor porpoises as they slowly circumnavigated us. After a few moments we continued moving. 

Kestrel arrived on scene and positioned ourselves out of the path of the oncoming humpback and watched as it came up for several deep, resounding breaths before fluking and descending back into the water below. Humpbacks can be quite predictable in their dive times however this particular whale kept us on our toes. It appeared on our starboard first, then off our stern. We watched in amazement until we heard the reports of orca spotted on the opposite side of San Juan county towards Victoria. We had to try and get a look. 

We had only just left humpback when the radio buzzed: a second group of Killer whales had been spotted, only these whales were much closer, a mere 5 minutes away. It’s this sort of unpredictability that drew my attention to work out here on the Salish sea. This is such a productive and biodiverse ecosystem with truly endless natural wonders to bear witness to! 

When we arrived on scene we found the T123s close to shore, coming up for breath one after another. This particular group is made up of Sydney (T123), her oldest son, Stanley (T123A) and her daughters, Lucky (T123C) and Darcy (T123D). As we watched the occasional sky hop and breach it was clear that these whales were up to something. When we rounded the southeast corner of Orcas towards the Peapod rocks their intentions seemed clearer. Harbor seals dotted the shoreline. These whales were hunting. We admired this incredible family as they coordinated with one another for several more minutes before we slowly made our way back home towards Friday Harbor, thus completing another successful and exciting day here at San Juan Safaris.