T137’s making a kill northwest side of Gedney island
T137A harassing gray whales #531 and #56
T137 saving T137A from gray whales
#531 and #56 in shallows off Camano island
Bald eagles flying above the gray whales
#49 and #21 on the way in south east of Gedney island
As we prepared to get off the dock for our second trip of the day the skies began to really clear up as the sun pushed its way through the clouds. A cooler wind had begun to pick up across the Possession sound and small white caps began to appear over the waters. The day had begun to feel warmer though as the sun was strong enough to cancel out the chill of the wind. It looked as though the afternoon trip would be just as gorgeous weather-wise as the morning trip had been.
We got underway and as per the usual headed down the channel and out around Jetty island. We passed the green and the yellow markers and blasted our way out to the shallows on the south end of Gedney island. It was here we spotted our first whale, unfortunately it disappeared and seemed to have long down times, so it was clear we would need something better. Just then captain Mike got in contact with a Washington state ferry captain who told us he had seen orca whales north bound from the Clinton ferry dock not 20 minutes prior. That was enough for us and we began to scour the white spotted seas for the 4 animals in the area.
Our search brought us north toward Saratoga passage on the westside of Gedney island and it was here captain Mike spotted one of the orcas!!! It was T137A and he was by himself, we didn’t know where his pod was but knew they couldn’t be to far off so as we followed T137A north we continued to search. We hadn’t gone far when small blows popped up a little ways ahead of us, immediately we knew it was the rest of the pod. After a few more looks at T137A, a young male orca, we caught up with T137, mom and her two youngest children. Soon T137A had sped up and was back up with the rest of the group.
Not long after that the pod began a hunt and with what seemed like little effort they were able to take down some unlucky sea mammal. Mom and son did the primary parts of the hunt, taking down the animal and finally making the kill. They moved in with precise and quick agile movements destroying whatever animal they had found and then feeding small bits to the young!!! A sea gull swooped in out of nowhere and picked up one small chunk of mammal guts and then flew off back toward Gedney island, proud of his prize I am sure.
After the whales had finished with their afternoon snack they continued north bound and we followed along, excited to see what may happen next. As we traveled the orcas grouped up tightly and gave us some great shots with the waves forcing them higher out of the water on each surfacing. Suddenly a passenger spotted blows from a gray whale in the distance, not in the immediate path of the orcas but close enough to get the heart going. Being a group of only 4 orcas we knew there was no way they would attempt to attack a full-size gray whale and as we expected the pod continued on passed the gray whales. Well the entire pod except for T137A who had split off from the group!!!
At first we didn’t know where T137A had gone but then we spotted him directly south of th gray whales and on a collision course with them. He had slowed down and moved over 600 yards to the east just to line up his approach and it was become clear that this young orca was up to no good. We still had no thought in our heads that he was actually going to attack the grays, up until the moment that he was right on top of them!!!!!
Now unbeknownst to T137A but knownst to all of us on the Island Explorer 4, there were two gray whales together, not just the one like T137A might have thought. Peck fins began to fly left and right as the grays rolled onto their backs and blasted T137A with their exhalation!!!! They were definitely not happy to have the orca intruding on them and were prepared to fight him back. Soon T137A was circling the grays weaving in and out of their peck slaps and all around creating havoc!!!! Then things took a bad turn for T137A as he found himself in the middle of these 2 giants of the deep.
At this point mom and her 2 younger kids had continued north and were a good 500 yards away when mom suddenly changed direction. T137A had most likely called for help and as moms always do, T137 was coming to the rescue. She raced in from the north, her 2 little ones just a few yards behind, and plunged head first into the chaos that was unfolding!!! In mere seconds you could tell she was putting up one heck of a fight as the grays became more sporadic, then suddenly T137A,B, and C came rushing out of the brawl and swam north quickly!!!
Mom still hadn’t surfaced as A,B, and C passed our bow, nice and close I might add, and the grays continued to freak out. It turns out mom had sent her offspring to safety and stayed behind to give those gray whales what for. Now we can only speculate at this point as the altercation was now under the surface but what was happening was plain to see. The grays peck slaps had begun to slow down and it seemed the bulk of the fight was over, thats when mom surfaced just north of the battle ground, headed toward her offspring!!!! It was the most amazing thing I have seen in all my life and my mind spent the rest of the trip in an adrenaline fueled cloud.
We stayed with the grays as they settled back down from their scuffle and watched as T137 and her family made their way north. It wasn’t until the orcas were out of sight that the grays fully calmed down and made their way into the shallows on the south end of Camano island. At first #531 seemed to be acting a little strange as she kept diving with a tilt to the right. There were no visible injuries as far as we could see on either gray whale but they were definitely shaken up. 56 and 531 stuck together for quite a while after that to ensure no other orcas were passing through the area and then they finally split up with 531 headed south toward Gedney island.
We followed 531 for a few looks then picked up speed and continued south toward the dock. After passing the shallows off of south Gedney island we met up with #49 Patch and #21 as they swam in circles sticking closely together just like 531 and 56 had been doing. After getting some nice looks at these last two gray whales we headed in for the day feeling insanely lucky to have witnessed such an ordeal and lived to talk about it. This trip will forever burn on in the hearts and memories of all those that were onboard today!!!!