July 15, 2021
Wild and Windy Afternoon with Bigg’s Killer Whales
Maxx K. | M/V Sea Lion | 07/15/2021 | 2:00pm
The wind forecast wasn’t super promising today: 15 mile/hour winds were being funneled into the Juan de Fuca from the west and an ebbing tide meant a very choppy three to four foot sea. When we left Friday Harbor we turned right, south through the San Juan Channel and towards rumors of several families of Bigg’s Killer Whales that had reunited with one another in the middle of the slosh. With our hull pounding against the surging waves and the whales still almost five and a half miles into the muck we turned around.
Instead we popped over to visit the Steller sea lions that resided on the Whale Rocks. We watched as two, thousand pound males emerged from the waters edge to joust, roaring and nipping at one another's faces. These massive Stellers looked like grizzly bears bounding across the jagged rocks, especially when compared to the much smaller and muted Harbor seals that rested beneath them.
From there we moved north and around the top of Lopez Island where we stopped to gaze up at a Bald eagle perched over its giant nest. Because eagles are known to return to and build upon the same nest year after year, I’m excited to see this nest grow over time!
Throughout the tour, our Captain was communicating with various vessels that were on scene with the T-Party of whales, interpreting the sea conditions and behaviours of the animals and thus making informed decisions as to where we should move. Fortunately, during our time with the seals and eagles the whales had moved north towards us and were now at the mouth of the San Juan Channel! This was the opportunity we were hoping for.
We arrived back at the whale rocks, the incoming tide churning the sea in every direction around us as families of Bigg’s Killer Whales (T034s, T037’s, T065A’s) rushed past us. They appeared first on our bow then stern. Sea Lion was now a rollercoaster ride, whipping and winding through the churning waters, exhausting all of our senses. We held on tight as whales appeared on all sides of us before moving off into the much calmer waters of the San Juan Channel.
We stayed with them for just a little bit longer, appreciating them now from the stillness of the channel as they escorted us north back to Friday Harbor, completing one of the most unconventional yet memorable tours I’ve had yet here at San Juan Safaris.