August 23, 2019

Two Species of Whales and Loads of Wildlife!

Erin | M/V Sea Lion | Friday, August 23, 2019 | 1:30 PM 

It was an incredible trip watching whales in the Salish Sea today! We began our trip heading south out of Friday Harbor, as we had some very promising reports of Bigg's killer whales around Smith Island. We headed through the San Juan Channel and went through Cattle Pass, where we got an excellent view of Cattle Point lighthouse! We then went into the Strait of Juan de Fuca, which was abundant with wildlife. On our way toward the whales, we saw lots of sea birds and we saw harbor porpoises popping up around our boat! The weather was absolutely stunning in the strait. 

It wasn't long before we began to see some blows and large dorsal fins up at the water's surface. When we came on scene with the whales, we could tell that there were 5 of them. They were not travelling in any specific direction, and throughout our encounter with them they came up all over the place. It was hard to predict where they were going to come up next. The pod was identified as the T46B's, which is a pod of Bigg's killer whales. Their pod usually has 8 whales, but one of the new mothers in the pod has began to split apart every now and then with her offspring. We were watching T46B, who is 31 years old, with 4 of her offspring, one of which is a new calf! In the photograph displayed in the banner, you can see the new calf! We got some awesome looks at the family pod of whales, and then we headed toward a report of a humpback whale! 

The humpback whale was actually quite close to the killer whales. We had to stop and search the area to try to spot its blow, and eventually one of the passengers spotted it! Humpback whales have a visible blow sometimes from miles away! We got to see it take a few dives, and on one of them it showed its 15 foot wide tail! It was incredible to see the difference between 2 species of whales. After watching the humpback whale, we headed back toward San Juan Island and stopped past Whale Rocks. 

At Whale Rocks, an adult Steller sea lion swam directly toward our boat! We got incredible views of it, and then we saw a bunch of Steller sea lions hauled out on the rocks. Steller sea lions are the largest sea lions in the world, reaching 12 feet long and weighing 2400 pounds! They are quite astounding to see. We then came across another pod of Bigg's killer whales. They were the T46B1's! T46B1 is the first offspring of T46B, who was the matriarch of the pod that we had watched earlier. When we came across the T46B1's, the rest of their family was only a few miles away from them. T46B1 has two offspring. One of them is 4 years old and the other is about a year old! The youngest calf has a condition called leucisim, so he is lacking pigmentation. It was amazing to be able to see a whale with such a rare condition. The pod was travelling along the shoreline of Lopez Island, passing by harbor seals that were hauled out of the water. They looked to be searching for food, and may have even been eating something. There were lots of seabirds following them and trying to steal the scraps that they were leaving behind. We had an awesome trip out in the Salish Sea! Until next time, folks! 

Naturalist Erin