July 15, 2021

The T065A's are "Bigg" Instigators of Curiosity

Abby | Kestrel | 7/15/2021

As if I thought my orca encounters couldn’t get any better, BAM! Today happened…

I suited up in fleece-lined pants, ready to take on the wind and waves that were about to disenchant the calm, put-together look I had so carefully compiled this morning. Weather reports came in of five-foot swells out in Haro Strait, and, as if right on cue, so did the killer whale reports. Captain Eric and I held on as we zoomed through San Juan Channel, 18 guests unaware that they had also purchased a “splash zone” ticket with their tour. Waves poured over the bow soaking the exposure suits of even those sitting at the back of the vessel. Of all my days on the water, today is the day I was thankful that everyone wanted their bibs!

When we finally made it to Hine Bank, we slowed our approach as exhales dotted the surface. We were in the vicinity of three matrilines; 12 Bigg’s killer whales in total, shown below:

  • T034 (1969, Female)
    • T034A (2007, Female)
    • T034B (2017, Gender Unknown)
  • T037 (1979, Female)
    • T037B (1998, Female)
      • T037B1 (2012, Male)
      • T037B2 (2017, Gender Unknown)
  • Artemis T065A (1986, Female)
    • T065A2 (2004, Male)
    • T065A3 (2007, Gender Unknown)
    • T065A4 (2011, Female)
    • T065A5 (2014, Male)
    • T065A6 (2018, Female)

Each main bullet point listed above indicates the oldest female and below it, all her offspring. The T037’s, for example, are a three-generational pod that travel together.

The whales were active at the surface, breaching, tail-lobbing, tail-slapping, and rough-housing with each other. The T065A’s in general tend to be the instigators of playfulness, I have found. It’s hard not to have a soft spot in my heart for that matriline.

Their curiosity with us overall left us elated, overjoyed. Ooxjaa, T065A2, was among them, so you know it was a good show! For those of you who don’t know, he’s the large male that was recently seen near Camano Island pushing a family around in a small boat.

All I know is that those folks on my vessel who traveled across the country to see orcas in the wild, or who have dreamed their entire lives of this moment, will have one, if not the most memorable tour of their life. I think they could tell from my squeals that it was the same for me as well.