August 4, 2019

Two Families of Bigg's Killer Whales Socializing near San Juan Island!

Piper | Sunday, August 4, 2019 | M/V Kittiwake | 11:00 AM

Today Captain Brian and I took some really awesome people out on the M/V Kittiwake to try to find some whales and wildlife! When we left the marina there were no whale sightings, so we decided to head south in San Juan Channel to do some searching of our own! On our way down the channel the radio came alive with a report of killer whales right where we were headed for the day!

We continued south and caught up with the orcas just below San Juan Island. When we arrived we confirmed the IDs of these families as the T46s and the T137s. These two families of Bigg’s killer whales (formerly known as transients) were spending the day socializing with each other, likely mating, and just having a grand ole time!

We got to the scene and switched off our engine and electronics, floating there silently as the whales swam before going on a deep dive; when the came back up, the rest of the family had continued straight forward, but two males, T46D and T46E surfaced near us, first with a giant spyhop and then the two swimming next to each other, one right-side-up and the other upside-down, lobbing his tail in the air as he went! Absolutely incredible.

We let the orcas continue on their way for a long time before switching the engine back on and meeting up with them to parallel them for a bit as they continued socializing and traveling. Eventually we had to part ways and we watched them swim away before heading back north towards San Juan Island.

Going through Cattle Pass we stopped at Whale Rocks and got to see some Steller’s sea lions which had returned early from their Alaskan summer breeding season! The Whale Rocks haul out site is starting to be notorious for late departures and early arrivals each season, which is fine by us!

Just before arriving back in the marina in Friday Harbor we stopped at some low-lying rocks which had a big group of harbor seals basking in the sun, as well as a bald eagle perched atop a tree, searching for its next meal! What an awesome day on the water!