June 24, 2021

T-Party of Bigg’s Killer Whales in the San Juan Channel!

Maxx K. | M/V Sea Lion | 06/24/2021 | 2:00

 

    When Sea Lion left Friday Harbor we had heard mere rumors of Killer Whales south of us in the Juan de Fuca. As we trudged through the current at Cattle Pass these rumors swiftly became a reality as blows and dorsal fins appeared on the horizon heading towards us. 

    We were slowly approaching a T-Party. Bigg’s Orca (Also known as “Transients”) typically travel alone or with small groups. Every now and again they will join up with other families or social groups in reunions known as a “T-Party.”

    In this particular group we had eight or nine whales that were identified as such: 

T0128, Floatsom and his brother, T0125A, Jetsam. 

T077C, Neftali and his younger brother, T077D, Alcyon. 

And finally, the T036’s who is made up of T036, Flapjack, her daughter T036B, Tattertip, and her three grandchildren, Bhotia, Greenfelder and Chip. 

    When we arrived on scene, they were all rolling across the surface as one group. Like a puddle of whales the rose and fell together. Suddenly, as they approached whale rocks their behavior changed- their breathing became more sporadic and they divided. We sat at Whale Rocks for several minutes and admired the Steller sea lions as they roared at one another, seemingly unaware of the families of black and whites that swam beneath them just beyond the water’s edge. 

After stopping to take a look at a Bald Eagle postured above us in an overhanging tree we continued moving up the San Juan channel to get one last glimpse of the families of orca. These whales had essentially made it back to Friday Harbor when we left them, ending an absolutely spectacular afternoon out on the Salish Sea.