July 21, 2017

Transient Orcas Spotted on the Sunset Whale Watch


[Sarah M. – 07/20/2017 – M/V Sea Lion – 05:30pm]


After a bit of a gray day in the San Juan Islands, we had a very welcome break in the clouds as we departed on our sunset whale watch from Friday Harbor. Out here in the Salish Sea your luck with wildlife sightings can change minute by minute, and yesterday was a great example of how the outcomes of previous trips can have no impact on sightings later in the day.


Captain Mike steered the M/V Sea Lion north out of the harbor towards a late report of killer whales in the Strait of Georgia heading south. Working together with the other whale watch companies in the area, we have created an expansive sighting network covering water all the way from Vancouver through the Puget Sound. Using people scanning from shore as well as from motor vessel, we are all obligated to share information with one another using our text messaging system, closed radio, or codes over public VHF. Last night we had a late afternoon report of a group of Transient killer whales traveling south into our range.


After a stop at Flattop Island to check out some harbor seals and bald eagles, we headed out into the flat calm Boundary Pass. There we found the family of orcas known as the T037As. The female known as T037A is a great example of her ecotype, exhibiting the characteristic wide-based very pointed dorsal fin and a fairly bulky body. She travels usually with her three youngest offspring, while her oldest, T037A1, sometimes travels away from mom. As we arrived on scene the whales had just finished a kill, and were playing, sticking their flukes in the air. After a brief playful moment, the whales started traveling again, and all of a sudden… WHAM! Another kill! The whale thrashed around over their dinner, and we shut down the boat watching the natural spectacle unfold. As the whales finished munching, they started to travel again, passing by the boat quite close!


Calling that last pass in golden light our last look with the orcas, we headed for Turn Point on Stuart Island, and they gave the shoreline of Spieden Island a cruise before heading for home.