Like many other’s first encounters with killer whales, I was absolutely excited and astounded when I saw them. I had traveled to the beautiful San Juan Islands in August to see the Southern Resident Killer Whales but didn’t see any. So when captain Nancy Black mentioned that there were sightings of killer whales, I began to freak out! I was internally screaming when I saw the first tall dorsal fin of the day. It was truly awesome since the killer whales hung around us for the whole trip.
There were several extended family pods that popped in and out of the area since a gray whale was killed likely the night before. The kill attracted all sorts of amazing sea birds, like Black-footed Albatrosses and Northern Fulmars. Often while the birds were feeding on pieces of blubber that floated to the surface, a killer whale would just swoop by and steal the piece from them.
I had heard that humpback whales were being spotted driving away killer whales from potential prey or even the kill itself, and we saw some of that first hand during the experience. At least 3 humpback whales were nearby for at least half of the tour. They seemed to try to drive away the killer whales and even trumpeted quite loudly when they surfaced, which I had never heard before.
Despite the humpbacks’ best efforts, the killer whales were able to hang around the carcass for as long as they wanted. We got frequent family portraits of CA51A’s (Star) family: Orion, Bumper and Comet. This was definitely a whale watching experience I will never forget.