September 26, 2019

Trifecta Thursday! Southern Resident Orcas, Minke Whales and a Humpback!

Piper | Thursday, September 26, 2019 | M/V Kestrel | 11:00 AM

Wowza! Today was an epic day in the Salish Sea; Captain Gabe and I took an awesome group of people out on our Adventure boat, armed against the wind in exposure suits. We left the docks and headed north into San Juan Channel, eventually arriving at White Rock where a haul-out of harbor seals was scooching itself across low-lying rocks. Just north of there Gabe was glancing out at a giant gathering of birds, a great sign there could be marine mammals around hunting. In the midst of the birds we eventually saw two Minke whales surface amongst some hunting harbor seals. In the light of the sun we even got to see the lightest puffs of mist over the Minke whales as they surfaced, a sight not often seen!

After some awesome looks at the second-smallest baleen whale in the world, we cruised up President Channel, spying some wee harbor porpoises cruising along on our way to the north end of Rosario Strait, where a huge group of Southern Resident killer whales were splashing around in the growing waves. These salmon-eating orcas were heading from their recent hangout in Puget Sound up towards the Fraser River, where they’ll hopefully be catching lots of Chinook (King) salmon. We saw members of both K Pod and J Pod, getting an amazing view at the J11s, including the newest baby of the Southern Residents, J56 “Tofino”!

We let the orcas swim past and as the wind really picked up and the waves got crazy, the orcas were having a blast, breaching away in the distance, to our delight. We turned away and headed east only to be stopped shortly after by a humpback whale blow! It went on a deep dive and it took a while getting a good look at this whale, but it was worth the wait! We saw the animal take five or six breaths before we saw a big arch in the back and its beautiful flukes rising above the surf. As the humpback swam down to the depths we slipped away and headed back to calm seas and the beautiful Friday Harbor! What an amazing day!