September 1, 2019

Three family pods of orcas together and a surprise humpback whale!

Erin | M/V Sea Lion | 1:30 PM | Sunday, September 1, 2019

What an incredible trip aboard the M/V Sea Lion today! We travelled north out of Friday Harbor in pursuit of some killer whale reports in Canada! As we made our way toward Sidney Island, we went through some upwelling zones, which create whitewater and smooth patches. We also saw some harbor porpoises pop up in San Juan Channel. We crossed the border between the U.S. and Canada and went to a place called Hugh's Passage. After we went through the passage, we saw some blows and large dorsal fins in the distance. There were some killer whales up ahead of us! 

When we arrived on scene with the whales, we realized that there were quite a few of them. They were travelling very close together, surfacing, and diving together. Throughout our encounter with the whales, we could gather that there were at least 10 whales travelling together. There were 3 adult males in the large pod. Two of them are easily identifiable because of their especially unique dorsal fins. They are part of the pod called the T18's. Some of the other whales were thought to be part of the T46's and the T100's. At one point, the whales split up and went around a rock that had harbor seals hauled out on it. Harbor seals are the favorite meal of the Bigg's killer whales, which are the type of whales we were watching. These whales typically travel in pods of 1-6 whales, so being able to see so many of them together was a really special treat! We spent about 30 minutes being in awe of the whales and watching them travel quickly together as a tight-knit pod. We then headed back toward Friday Harbor in pursuit of some more wildlife. 

When we arrived to Friday Harbor, we saw a very tall blow in the distance. It was a humpback whale! We went over toward the blow and got to see the whale up at the surface quite a few times. It also showed its fluke, which is the underside of its tail, as it went down for deeper dives. We got to hear its extremely powerful, 200 mph breath as well. It was an enchanting encounter, and it was a really lovely surpirse. Humpback whales are the summer visitors to the Salish Sea, and they are here to feed. When they are here they are eating about 1 ton of food every day! After getting some great looks at the humpback, we headed back to the harbor with memories to last a lifetime! 

Naturalist Erin