[Naturalist Sarah C. 8/17/17 10am Kestrel]
Ah, a clear summer morning on San Juan Island! No better time to bundle up in a good old exposure suit and board a high speed whale watching vessel to venture out into the Salish Sea in search of orcas.
With a group of fresh passengers and nothing but smooth conditions ahead, we left Friday Harbor aboard Kestrel to see if we could locate some killer whales. We’ve been seeing a record number of transient marine mammal-hunting killer whales this summer, who are known to hunt even in our tiniest and most obscure passageways and harbors here in the San Juans. Their unpredictability has lead us to all corners of the map, and today we were just starting to explore our nearby waters when we received a report from a fellow whale watching captain – transients were just south of Lopez Island!
We stopped by Whale Rocks on our way down, catching a look at some Steller’s sea lions who had recently taken over the best haul-out spots. We continued south through the rapid-like waters of Cattle Pass into smoother seas. Before long, we were spotting splashes and dorsals on the surface of the water. Orcas!
We arrived on scene just as the T30 family group was finishing up a kill, a swarm of seabirds overhead opportunistically picking off the scraps of whatever unfortunate marine mammal was breakfast for this group of 6 orcas. After the flurry of feeding had settled, we watched the killer whales go through a brief resting sequence, digesting all that fresh blubber and muscle.
Before long, the whales were wide awake and wanted to play. We witnessed breaches, tail lobs, and a ridiculous number of spyhops as almost every member of the family peeked his or her head out of the water for a quick look around.
Soon it was time to head back to Friday Harbor, but we were lucky enough to spot some seals on our way back, which were hauled out in the dozens off the coast of Lopez Island.

Check out a few pics from today’s tour below!