September 17, 2020

Surprise Transient Orcas in the Foggy Strait of Georgia

P/C. Olivia Esqueda P/C. Olivia Esqueda

Olivia | M/V Sea Lion | September 17th, 2020 | 13:00

What a crazy, adventurous day out in the dense fog and smoke! We left the dock with no more than a 30-yard visibility in either direction of the boat. We were still able to travel out in the San Juan Islands safely and continue north where there were some whale rumors far in the Strait of Georgia. The smog started to lift the further north we went and by the time we were just past Patos Island, and just south of Point Roberts, the skies opened to a mile or 2 visibility. We knew the Bigg’s Killer Whales [T065B’s] moved into Canada and we would have to view a bit far from the United States side, but coming this far in these crazy conditions, we all thought it was worth it.

Just as I was about to tell our passengers to view from the port side of the boat and point out where the whales were swimming, a large male orca busted through the surface of the water in a full on porpoise towards the T065Bs, about 200 yards off our starboard bow. We quickly realized this was Stanley of the T123’s, and his mom and two younger siblings were following right behind him. CAN I EXPRESS THE EXCITEMENT OF FINDING SURPRISE ORCAS ANY LOUDER!?

We watched as the two family groups join up on the United States side of the border and started socializing in excitement at the reunion. Both young calves, T123D and T065B2, started rolling and playing with together with the pure joy any 2-year-old brings. All seven individuals were spy hopping, lobtailing, breaching, lunging, and rolling. My mind was blown at how epic this day turned out to be.

On the way back towards Friday Harbor, everyone was vibrating with joy at the unexpected, remarkable afternoon we shared together. Harbor Porpoise swam within view almost the entire way back to the dock, and we could not be any happier we were able to be a part of this experience for all our passengers.