July 2, 2017

Transient Killer Whales in the Salish Sea

Orca in the sunlight

[07/01/2017 – M/V Sea Lion – 1:30pm & 5:30pm]


We had a magical day on the M/V Sea Lion that again taught us about the importance of not worrying if there is no report of orcas as we leave the dock. Killer whales can travel 100 miles a day at speeds over 35 miles per hour. This means that reports literally change minute by minute and you can never write off a day based on the reports leaving the dock.


Since we had no reports we left Friday Harbor on our 1:30 trip with the intention of going out on a search pattern. We decided to head north, communicating with the other boats out on the water, covering water that hadn’t been looked at for the day. Our plan was to cover Spieden Channel and into the Northern reaches of Haro Strait, scanning for wildlife. We started by looking up at Spieden Island admiring the amazing Gary oaks and the beautiful scenery of the island. We made it to Sentinel Rocks where we checked out some Pacific harbor seals. These small seals are all over the place in the inland sea, we have 250,000-300,000 of them in here!


After we looked at the seals Captain Gabe turned the boat away from Haro Strait and back towards San Juan Channel, whales had been reported IN Friday Harbor! We shot south to meet up with the T049As family of orcas as they cruised north out of the harbor. The whales were tucked close into the shore, and their blows were backlit. It was stunning. We finished the trip by cruising through some of the small islands near the Orcas shoreline looking for eagles and seals.


On our second trip we again spent time with the T049As. By our second trip they had made it to the Stuart Island shoreline and started to cross Haro Strait towards the southern Canadian islands. The four killer whales made a couple of kills as they reached the islands, and they proceeded to throw a small whale party after they filled their bellies. We loved watching them spyhop and get playful at the surface. As we left the whales we started to enjoy the beautiful golden sunlight as the sun began to dip towards the Salish Sea.