J-Pod and Bigg’s Killer Whales
September 2, 2018
This morning, we headed out of the harbour aboard the Orca Mist into Juan de Fuca Strait in search of orcas and humpbacks. Within minutes of leaving the harbour, we received a report of orcas near Turn Point, so we headed east to investigate. As we arrived on scene north of Kellet Bluffs, we noticed a large group of orcas porpoising south at a high rate of speed! The group of orcas were tentatively identified as at least two family groups: the T99s and T36s. The reason for their behaviour became apparent minutes later as we soon spotted Blackberry (J27). J-pod was following the Bigg’s killer whales! While it makes sense that resident fish-eating orcas would fear the transient mammal-hunting orcas, it is the other way around as resident orcas typically outnumber the smaller resident pods. We ended our encounter by viewing Cookie (J38) and an unidentified female doing some very active foraging behaviour north of Kelp Reef. It is incredibly rare to see both ecotypes in such close proximity and the incredible behaviour displayed by both the resident and transient orcas made this trip a true highlight of the season!
Our afternoon tour was full of more surprises as L-pod was spotted inbound west of Race Rocks. In Race Rocks, we encounter a large group of orcas, the L12’s travelling east in resting formation. It was a spectacular experience, as while watching resting whales sounds boring, it was one of the most amazing behaviours we see. When resting, orcas group together in tight formation and surface and dive in near unison. The sight of two large males, Mystery (L85) and a staff favourite Mega (L41) made us incredibly excited. L-pod sightings in the Salish Sea have been a rarity this summer. After our encounter, we traveled to Race Rocks and watched the antics of the Steller and California sea lions and even had an Ollie sighting! The resident sea otter was lazily resting on his back in the bull kelp in front of several massive Steller sea lions. Our encounter concluded with a wonderful humpback whale encounter just east of Race Rocks. Seeing the large whale raise its huge flukes was a great way to end another magnificent day on the Salish Sea.