June 16, 2021

West San Juan Island Bigg’s Killer Whales

Bigg’s Killer Whale

Maxx K. | M/V Kestrel | 06/16/2021 | 2:00pm

    We had a full boat today as we set out of Friday Harbor, heading northbound gourds murmurings of orca on the west side of the island. Almost immediately as we turned left into the San Juan Channel we spotted a Bald Eagle, perched atop a tree on our left. From where we sat just above the water, the eagle seemed small though we know in reality that this was a massive bird. Mature bald eagles can reach over three feet tall when sanding upright and can have a wingspan of over six feet long. We are so lucky to be able to witness them so frequently here!

    Kestrel continued forward, eventually turning into Spieden Channel and wrapping up and over the north west corner of San Juan Island. It was a beautiful day on the water and Kestrel glided over the still surface with ease. We may as well have been sitting on a lake. 

    As Lime Kiln State Park turned into view we slowed down and rotated Kestrel so our guests could orient themselves on the starboard side of the boat. It was only a minute or two before we saw them: the T046B’s. This is a family group made up of seven whales: T046B (Raksha), her five children and her grandchild, T046B1A. They slowly glided through the water, surfacing every few minutes for air. As they moved northward they changed direction. Suddenly, they were behind us. Captain Gabe quickly turned off the engine allowing us to simply bob in the water and listen to the powerful PSHH as they each filled their lungs with cool fresh air. We waved them goodbye as they crossed in front of us then rotated Kestrel south to continue our journey and see what other bits of wildlife we could find. 

    Arriving at Middle bank on the southside of San Juan Island, it wasn’t long before we found Minke Whales feeding on schooling fish just below the surface of the water. We waited there, our heads on swivels, darting our eyes between the gulls, Rhinoceros auklets, and Minke whales that appeared all around us. We spent several more minutes there before turning north once again passing Harbor seals and Steller sea lions on the whale rocks as we  headed back towards Friday Harbor. You truly couldn’t ask for a better day on the Salish Sea!