May 2, 2021

Transient Orca Whales, A Gray Whale and More Near Cattle Point!


Jordan Higgins Blogs

Jordan | M/V Sea Lion | 05/02/2021 |1:00pm

For any given trip, we never know what is going to happen or what we are going to see that day. But, wow, today we were incredibly lucky! We saw so much extraordinary wildlife!

The day began as Captain Pete and I greeted our guests and set off out of Friday Harbor towards the great unknown. We headed down south towards whispers of potential sightings. As we saw Cattle Point Lighthouse appear on the horizon, we knew we were nearing the southern most point of San Juan. Here, we saw a couple boats gathered at the mouth of the channel.

We slowly approached and suddenly saw orca whales!! Massive black dorsal fins cut through the water and were quietly headed towards rocks with seals aimlessly splashing nearby. Since these were the transient whales who exclusively eat marine mammals, we knew they were on the hunt. Then, they all disappeared underwater. Suddenly, there was splashing and whales circling as they swam right up against the rocks, probably trapping their prey against a wall. It seemed like their efforts were successful as a few of them seemed to food share.

As the orcas quieted and continued on their journey, we decided to visit the rest of the seals and sealions who were not eaten! The harbor seals and Steller sea lions were resting side by side among the rocks with a juvenile bald eagle sitting watch! As scavengers, the bald eagle was probably hoping the whales would leave some scraps for him!

The size difference between the two species of pinnipeds was quite impressive as we compared the lumbering bear-like sea lions to the much smaller, quieter seals.

Then, we continued out towards open water and found ourselves a gray whale!! It’s incredibly rare to find two different species of whales on one trip! We watched the huge gray whale calmly dive and feed as we nervously wondered if the orcas knew the whale was here and if they would turn and try to attack. Our whales usually prefer just to stick with easy kills like seals, but they occasionally will take down larger prey as well.

Don’t worry! The gray was safe. We said goodbye and rejoined our orca friends who had continued a bit further north. Here, they seemed very happy to have full bellies as they splashed and played and rolled on their backs, spy hopped and showed us their tails.

Finally, we headed back home and enjoyed relaxing in the sunshine. I had some great conversations with some wonderful guests. I love it when people ask me good questions!

Thank you so much for being awesome humans! It makes the trip even more memorable.

We all felt very grateful for such a beautiful day.