June 12, 2018

Wonderful Whales at Obstruction Pass!

Bigg's killer whale surfacing

June 09, 2018 | M/V Sea Lion | 12:00 Noon 

What a fantastic trip we had today! The weather was super cooperative and shone sunlight on our entire journey. Captain Gabe, Mariana and I were all very excited to start the day and set off on the voyage to find whales.

Coming out of Friday Harbor for the 12:00 trip, we headed south towards Cattle Pass. As we boated through Griffin Bay and neared Cattle Point (the southern point of San Juan), we spotted the orca whales! Multiple groups of Bigg’s orca whales were sited throughout the large stretch of water between San Juan and Lopez Island moving north. We watched the T65As swimming within the center of the bay followed by the T49s trailing behind them. In addition, two males were seen hanging out near the shoreline and another mysterious group of whales were swimming far off in the distance. The sight of so many orcas surrounding us was overwhelming! We started off watching the T65As and their tiny calf who was born about two months ago and who still has his orange coloration! It was super fun to see him swimming, jumping and playing next to his mother.

Eventually we decided to take a closer look at the two large males who were swimming close to the shore of Lopez Island. We ended up following the males up the entire west side of the island. They seemed to be exhibiting hunting behavior as they scanned the rocky crevices for any marine mammals. Within the Upright Channel, we suddenly found a sealion who surfaced just a few feet away from the males! All we know is that both the orcas and the sealion immediately disappeared under the dark water and didn’t surface for an extensive amount of time. The sealion was never seen again, so his fate remains a mystery. The males were identified as being T65A2 and T49A1, both of which are young adult males who have previously been spotted traveling and hunting together.

The males disappeared and we rejoined the rest of the T65As who headed up through Obstruction Pass. At this point, the whales decided to take it easy and swam very slowly through this area. This allowed for our guests on our boat to enjoy the other beautiful animals in the area. On the shoreline, we spotted a bald eagle up in a tree who then took off and flew above the orcas swimming below. We also saw a small rock packed full of seals. These seals jumped into the water as the boat grew near and took refuge in a nearby kelp forest. Luckily for them, the whales seemed to take no interest in their presence. As we reached the northern point of Obstruction Island, we turned around a headed home.

Definitely a very satisfying day with countless displays of the beauty of nature.

Naturalist Jordan