Transient killer whales

[Sarah M. – 07/21/2017 – M/V Seahawk – 02:00pm]


Today the M/V Seahawk had a breathtaking afternoon whale watch from Roche Harbor. We had some much-needed rain and it yielded a true Pacific Northwest feel as we cruised the Salish Sea with some liquid sunshine falling the sky.


As we left the harbor we had two reports of orcas in the area, one far to the south, another to the far north. We made the decision to head to the northern group, and Captain Joe steered the M/V Seahawk towards Stuart Island. As we were cruising up the fairly undeveloped shoreline, another report of orcas came over the radio. Even better? This third group of whales was only two miles south of our location. Captain Joe whipped the boat around and headed south!


We encountered a group of seven transient, marine-mammal-eating killer whales just south of Battleship Island. When identifying individual killer whales we look to the marking on their backs, most notably their dorsal fins and gray saddlepatch markings. Today, looking at these markings we had T037, T037B, T037B1, T037B2, T034, T034A, and T034B. This group included two of the smallest calves in the population, T037B2 is right around six months old, while T034B is right around three months old. Over the past few weeks it has been amazing to watch these two little one traveling with their mothers. It has also been really cool to watch these young mothers traveling with the more experienced T037. Killer whales learn through mimicry, so having an older, more experienced female kicking around with these two new babies must be quite the help for T037B and T034.


After a great encounter with the orcas, leaving them near Turn Point on Stuart Island, we headed for the north side of Spieden Island on the search for harbor seals and bald eagles. We found at least a dozen eagles tucked into the evergreen trees and so many seals in the water and hauled out on rocks.


It was a spectacular day in the Salish Sea, I cannot wait to see what tomorrow holds!