young transients

Two young transient orcas breach at the same time right next to each other.

WOW. WOW OH WOW. I'm not even sure how to start describing today's trip. It my hands down my best trip of the season. We cruised out of Roche Harbor and immediately encountered a group of 9 transient killer whales. One adult male (T49C) seemed to be trying to start a party--or something. He was tail slapping non-stop. No one else appeared to want anything to do with it. It actually looked as if he was throwing a bit of a hissy fit. Then finally the part started. Two young calves, probably both under the age of 5, started chasing a bird. They porpoised in circles as the poor water-logged auklet tried to fly away. I'm not sure of the conclusion. THEN one of those little guys started breaching. He/she breached 5 times consecutively before the second one finally caved and went in for a double breach (pictured). They followed that behavior up with a moon walk. This is a rare behavior where the whale swims backward.


Adult female transient tail lobbing or "cartwheeling."

The breaching from the youngsters continued and then the adults joined in! Breaching from little orcas is impressive, but adults which can be 23-30 feet long, are a totally different experience. Not only did we see breaching, but cartwheels (pictured above), more tail slapping, pec slapping, dorsal slapping, porpoising, and even wake riding. After a container ship motored by, we observed the group surf through its rolling wake.

As if the last hour wasn't exciting enough on its own, a second group of transients approached this group from the north. The group we were on suddenly stopped. Literally stopped in their tracks. They floated at the surface side-by-side without forward or backward movement as if sparring off for a killer whale sized game of Red Rover. Both groups then disappeared under the water. Five minutes of silence. Then they all (with the exception of T49C who seemed to be pouting alone) shot out of the water almost at once.  They began porpoising, breaching, partying. It looked like a greeting ceremony. When all three groups of residents come together, we see this. However as far as I know, this isn't something we've seen in transients. Minutes later, a third group came porpoising from the south, and a similar ritual ensued, without the Red Rover. Before our hearts exploded from all of the excitement (and because we were getting close to the 3-hour mark), we cruised back toward Roche with a happy boat full of guests.

I'm sure I'll be talking about this one for a while.

Naturalist Alex

M/V Sea Hawk

San Juan Outfitters