As we departed Roche Harbor on the Sea Hawk, guests were hopeful of spotting orca whales. The morning reports had seemed positive, I indicating transient killer whales in Boundary Pass (the pass that divides US waters and Canadian waters). On route to the reports, we spotted a group of playful harbor porpoises. Harbor porpoises are typically timid of stopped boats, so being able to stop our boat and get up close views was very special. They typically travel in groups of 2-7 and briefly come up to the surface where guests can view their dorsal fin. Guests frequently ask about how I can tell the difference between porpoises and dolphins based on the dorsal fin - the classic dolphin people envision is the bottlenose dolphin, which is approximately twice the size of a harbor porpoise. In addition, the harbor porpoises’ dorsal fin is a very dark gray, while the dolphin dorsal is a much lighter gray.

After getting an exciting look at harbor porpoises, we continued on to Canadian waters. Once arriving on scene, guests got spectacular views of a group of 5-6 transient killer whales! The group appeared to be traveling towards the shoreline - at this point there was lots of white water and darting dorsal fins, indicating a potential kill. Due to there being a heavy presence of harbor porpoise in the area, it is likely that the killer whales killed and consumed a harbor porpoise. Killer whales tend to share their kills with other members of their pod.

After spending over an hour with the killer whales, we began our voyage back to Roche Harbor. On our way home we passed by Spieden Island, getting excellent views of non-native sheep and bald eagles! Overall it was a fantastic trip, illustrating not only the diversity found in the Salish Sea, but also the circle of life.

T46s in the Straight of Juan De Fuca