June 21, 2021

Two Groups of Bigg's Killer Whales

Abby | Sea Lion | 6/21/2021

It was a sunny day, weather forecasted to be 75 degrees, although it felt like a blistering 90. We boarded Sea Lion in Friday Harbor, 28 smiling faces awaiting a trip through the islands. After Captain Pete and I left the dock, we cruised north through San Juan Channel, on route to meet a matriline of Bigg’s killer whales that were headed south around Henry Island in our direction.

When we arrived on scene with the T046B matriline, we watched in awe as the whales zigged and zagged through the water, as if on a hunt. The entire group was female, except for the youngest calf for which we still don’t have a gender. From the T046B matriline, we had:

  • T046B (Female, 1988)
  • T046B2 (Female, 2008)
  • T046B3 (Female, 2011)
  • T046B4 (Female, 2013)
  • T046B6 (Unknown Gender, 2019)

From this matriline, we were only missing the oldest daughter of T046B and her two offspring.

After leaving these whales by Stuart Island, we did a quick pass by Spieden before finding a second group of Bigg’s killer whales on our way back to the harbor:

  • T077C (Male, 2006)
  • T077D (Male, 2009)

As soon as we arrived on scene with these two young males, I saw them zig-zag through the water and come up with prey in their mouths! It could have been a harbor seal or a harbor porpoise, although it was hard to distinguish. The visual I had through my binoculars was quick, but absolutely magical to see a nature documentary happening right before my eyes.

It’s not often we get two different groups of orcas in the same day, and everyone on the boat felt the afterglow of watching these whales hunt in this beautiful ecosystem. We casually motored back to the harbor, spirits high, faces sun-kissed and glistening in the warm harbor breeze.

Filed by:

Marine Naturalist & Reservations


Sea Lion

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