July 11, 2021

Transient Killer Whales Swimming Against the Current Beneath the Deception Pass Bridge!

Jordan | M/V Kestrel | 07/11/2021 10:00pm

This trip was super unique! I’ve never seen orca behavior quite like this before.

The day began with a beautiful boat ride out of Friday Harbor and down the San Juan Channel. We passed Cattle Point lighthouse and emerged out into open waters.

Heading toward the East, we could see the distant islands grow closer and closer. Finally we arrived at Deception Pass, a fantastic area with huge rocky cliffs and lush forests. Here, we saw something quite extraordinary. The currents were rushing towards the small channel where the bridge arched above and there was a pod of orcas were swimming the opposite direction! We watched as the whales swam and swam against the current and seemed to go nowhere! We assumed they would eventually make it out of the channel or turn around but these whales were stubborn and kept swimming and jumping and diving towards the rushing water.

It seemed like they were having fun or at least getting a great workout in! But, we couldn’t drive closer and still maintain a respectful distance. So, we decided to adventure around to find other wildlife while they worked through the chaotic waters.

We found this little island called Williamson Rock and it was covered with hundreds of birds! Huge cormorants and flocks of gulls sat guarding their nests. There were even harbor seals mingling with the birds on the shore! Seal pups flopped around and enjoyed the sunshine.

As we headed back to check in on the whales, we found they were still in the same spot! They must have been there for about an hour and a half! Incredible! Not sure what they were really thinking. But, finally, they turned around and enjoyed swimming easily with the current.

After a few minutes it seemed like they went into nap mode. And I don’t blame them! It was so fun to see them swimming with Mount Baker in the background.

They began to hunt so we turned around and let them feed.

On the way home, we found two massive bald eagles perched in dead trees. Wonderful.

What a very exciting trip.