June 19, 2021

Traveling along San Juan Island with 2 Bigg’s Killer Whales and a Humpback Whale

Transient Killer Whales Near Henry Island

Haleigh | M/V Osprey | June 20, 2021 | 5:30pm


Every time we leave the harbor in search of wildlife, we combine our scientific knowledge of the Salish Sea with previous visual sightings to pinpoint the best routes. That being said, it takes time to actually get on scene with wildlife. On a sunset trip like today, I feel fortunate that within 10 minutes of departure we had our eyes on a Humpback Whale! This humpback was found in San Juan Channel between San Juan island and Orcas island. Humpbacks spend their summers in nutrient-rich waters, like the Salish Sea, feeding on small schooling fish, like herring, krill and sand lance. We stayed on scene for about three surfacings with this whale, observing the large hump, notched dorsal fin, and the signature fluke. 

Soon after our arrival with this humpback, we received information about two Bigg’s Killer Whales traveling on the northwest side of San Juan Island. We safely boated away from the feeding humpback and started our trek further north. We found these two individuals hugging the shoreline near Roche Harbor. They were identified as T37A1 (Inyo, Male) and younger T65A5 (Elsie, Male). They were traveling in sync, taking ~4 minute dives hunting for harbor seals or other marine mammals along the island. As they dove near the opening of the harbor, we noticed a buoy on the surface flopping back and forth! These two playful orcas seemed to have been distracted by the buoy lines or were just having some fun together!

We followed them around to the west side along Henry Island as the sun’s golden rays sparkled on their tall dorsal fin. As they neared the end of Henry Island, we decided it was time to say goodbye to these Bigg’s Killer Whales. We parted ways and drove towards Friday Harbor. It’s always a joy to be out on the water, especially with a lucky whale day like today!