Erin | M/V Sea Hawk | 2:00 PM | Friday, July 5, 2019

What a wonderful afternoon in Boundary Pass this 5th of July! We left Roche Harbor and headed north through Johns Pass. Johns Pass is in between Johns and Stuart Island. It is a beautiful pass. After going through the pass, we headed toward Waldron Island, where there were some reports of Bigg's killer whales. On our way to see the whales, we saw lots of harbor seals pop their heads out of the water. Everybody was looking hard for any type of wildlife, and we worked well as a team to spot great things! As we got closer to Bare Island, which is on the west side of Waldron Island, we caught sight of some dorsal fins at the surface of the water. They were orcas! We were all very excited to be in the presence of such magnificent animals. 

When we first started watching the whales, their dive patterns were quite erratic. They were coming up, breathing a few times, going down for dives, and coming up in completely different areas than they dove down in. It was unpredictable, which kept us all on our toes. They seemed to be doing some circling and zigzagging, which gave off the impression that they wre hunting for something. There were four whales in the group, and they were identified as the T99's. T99, who is the mother, is 35 years old, and she was with three of her offspring. The youngest of her offspring is only 4 years old! 

Towards the end of our encounter with the orcas, they started to pick up speed and head towards Canadian waters. They were in a place with significant tidal currents and upwelling occurring, and we saw lots of harbor porpoises popping up in the tidal rips. We thought for sure that the orcas would try to hunt the harbor porpoises, but aside from a bit of splashing from a few of the orcas, there was no evidence that they caught anything. While we were watching the orcas, we saw a bald eagle flying around! It was incredible to glimpse its 6 foot wingspan! After our amazing wildlife encounters, we headed back toward Roche Harbor with memories to last a lifetime. It was a spectacular day in the Salish Sea! I hope everyone had a lovely 4th of July!

Naturalist Erin