Incredible Orcas!


We got orcas on both off our trips today from Anacortes. Two large males on the morning trip and a superpod of orcas going ballistic on the evening trip!
A full write to come soon, for now enjoy the photos!

Quite a few of you were interested in tonight’s photos, email me at for info.

-Michael Colahan

Well, it’s 2 am and I can only get this one photo uploaded! More to come soon (Friday), and yes, they are awesome!

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Blustery Day – But We Got WHALES!!

Port Angeles PM:

Transient Orcas inside Port Angeles Harbor
A young orca calf!

No bones about it, today was quite a windy day, but with hopeful passengers, dedicated crew, and an experienced captain, anything, and we mean ANYTHING is possible!

We began our journey heading east toward Dungeness Spit, but reports of possible whales elsewhere drew us into more open water. We aimed toward some of our typical humpback whale stomping grounds but the wind and waves made the search challenging. When the time came to return home, long faces were plentiful, but a reminder that the trip is never over until we’re back at the dock proved incredibly poignant today, because as we rounded Ediz Hook into the harbor, Captain Dennis spotted KILLER WHALES in front of the Coast Guard station!

This family of five transient orcas, believed to be the T77’s, included a large male and a young calf! They traveled all the way into the end of the harbor giving us some much appreciated viewing time with shelter from the wind and waves.  After watching for quite a while, we made an announcement that the next series of breaths would be our last before returning home and the whales, as if on cue, rose to the occasion and did an extremely close pass just 15-20 yards behind the vessel! Talk about a grand finale!

Today was a great reminder for all to never stop searching!

Erin 🙂

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Humpback Haven in Port Angeles Backyard

Port Angeles.

*An immature and a mature Bald Eagle at Ediz Hook
*Humpback Whale CS513 a few miles off shore of Angeles Point.
*At least 4 other Humpback Whales spotted near the area around CS513
*Fluke Slaps by CS513
*Humpback Whales BCX1068 “Split Fluke” & BCXunknown “Stitch” spotted just west of Rock Pile

(photo credit: Lee Leddy)

Trip Log:
Our wildlife sightings began before we entered the Juan de Fuca Strait. Right along the shore of Ediz Hook, 2 Bald Eagles were spotted. One of the Eagles was a young immature eagle while the other was a white headed mature Bald Eagle. It was great to be able to compare the appearances of the two age differences. Not far from the Bald Eagles, we also spotted a nice group of Harbor Seals. A few of them wiggled on the bellies demonstrating the seals mobility on land.
We entered the open waters and headed west in search for whales. It was long before we spotted the first exhalation. It was CS513! We were quite lucky as CS513 never went on a full deep dive, but still often brought up its beautiful white flukes. As we watched CS513, we noticed more exhalations in the distance. 3 more to the west and 1 more to the northeast. We must have found an area of good food. Suddenly, CS513 started slapping its flukes again the surface of the water. Eventually, the whale turned over, facing its belly upward, and did a few more slaps. We were able to see the beautiful white pectoral flippers reflecting the bluefish green water at the surface. It was beautiful. Eventually, CS513 began heading northward, so we said our goodbye and headed east in search of more whales.
It didn’t take long before another exhalation was spotted. Just West of an area known as the Rock Pile, BCX1068 was hanging out. BCX1068 is also known as “Split Fluke” due to the unique notch on its Fluke. We spent a lot of time with Split Fluke, enjoying as he circled the boat and brought up his flukes. As we watched Split Fluke, we noticed another whale’s exhalation slowly getting closer. We watched in anticipation to see if the two whales would buddy up. At first it seemed like the buddy friendship would not happen as they traveled away from one another. Then suddenly, they appeared swimming side by side right in from of the Island Explorer 4. Split Fin’s buddy turned out to be a Humpback Whale known as “Stitch” due to some unique lines along its flukes resembling stitch markings.
It was a wonderful Humpback Whale Day on the Juan de Fuca Strait.

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Amazing Transient Superpod Action!!!

Trip Highlights:
*Multiple Transient killer whale pods (a Superpod)
*Greeting ceremony between multiple pods!
*Breaches galore!!
*Orcas surf in the wake of a tanker!!
*Lots of bald eagles today!

Naturalist’s Log:
Today was one of the best trips of the year!!  We watched multiple transient killer whales socialize and play for our entire visit with them!  As soon as we arrived the action began and it never ended!  Young orcas were shooting out of the water in breaches left and right as they approached us, and we even saw a synchronized double breach!  We definitely had the T36B pod, T99pod, and T49C in this group among others!  Then when the huge wake of a tanker came over, these orcas took advantage of the opportunity to surf in the wake!!  It was amazing to watch these black and whites slashing through the waves and coming out of the water with rooster tails behind them!  

As if the action couldn’t get any better we could see that another big pod of orcas was swimming in form the north.  Our orcas put on the breaks and gathered in a tight line together waiting for their buddies to join them.  This second group including the T123 pod and many others.  We had a transient orca greeting ceremony!!  The two groups went under the water and stayed down for quite a while, probably getting to know each other all the while.  When they all finally surfaced together the playtime just continued to go on and on!  We must have had at least 20-25 animals in this superpod!  What an amazing trip!  Naturalist Bart Rulon

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Lunge Feeding Minke Whale!!!!!!!

Trip Highlights:
*Two minke whales
*A lunge feeding minke whale!
*Bald eagles galore, Steller sea lions, harbor seals, and harbor porpoise!!

Wow, what a day we had today with some extraordinary wildlife surprises!  We had our first wildlife stop at Bird Rocks, where we spotted 5 bald eagles hanging out, most likely guarding some food they had stashed behind the rocks.  Two bald eagles spent a long time staring each other down while we watched!  Who knows which eagle eventually won that battle?  Later, Capt. Mike made a great decision to head south for one of the best minke whale shows of the year!  At Partridge Bank we spotted a couple of minke whales that were particularly cooperative and entertaining! After a few great views of the whales Mike spotted a bait ball forming at the surface, and drew our attention to it,  as the birds started to gather!  No less than 10 seconds later one of the minke whales burst out of the water lunge feeding on the whole school of candle fish!  The lucky fish went flying out of the water, and the unluckly’ ended up in his belly!  What an amazing surpise!  Mike called in the other whale watching captains to share our cooperative whales with them.  Later we found another minke whale, lots of harbor seals, and 5 more bald eagles at Minor Island!  On the way home we spotted two adult bald eagles perched side by side at Castle Rock, which was a special request from a couple that was on the boat today!  What an amazing day on the water! Naturalist Bart Rulon.

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BXZ0298 Split Fin
Unidentified juvenile Humpback
Eagle at Ediz Hook
Race Rocks Lighthouse

     A sunny blustery day greeted us as we left the dock and headed into the harbor.Tankers were moored inside Ediz Hook taking care of their business as we proceeded towards the Straits of Juan de Fuca. An adult Bald Eagle was perched on the driftwood at the end of the hook.We were lucky to have the Pilot Boat head out to a tanker to drop off a pilot to guide it safely through the Straits as we left. With reports of the wind picking up in the afternoon and no reports of whales we headed west to beat the afternoon wind and have it at our back on the way home. It was a great choice.
    . We had angled north and west and we found BCZ0298 Split Fin a Humpback Whale we know well, south of Beechy Head near the freighter lanes.  He was in a hungry mood  feeding close to the surface with very short down times. Krill was scattered in the upper water column from the surface down to about 100 feet so food was aplenty. Right at home next to the boat he continued to feed slow and steady giving us an unprecedented view  of a humpback whale skim feeding. he wasnt shy with his flukes either showing them off with amazingly close passes. At times  he surfaced so close to us we could hear the flutter in in his exhalations. At one point  he launched himself out of the water with a caudal peduncle throw or tail throw splashing water up in a huge plume. We enjoyed his company for a long  time noting another exhalation in the distance.Eventually  a few Canadian whalewatch boats came over to see Split Fin  so we left him to eat and made our way over to Race Rocks.
    The blue sky made a perfect backdrop for Race Rocks Lighthouse dressed in black and white stripes. Pigeon Guillemots fluttered around in their comical way as we entered race passage and harbor seals lined  the rocks on both sides.Glaucous winged gulls stood sentinel on the rocky outcroppings as we  exited and turned our sights southward in hopes of finding another whale.
    Once again the captain turned us in the right direction with his whale sense and we found a juvenile humpback north of freshwater bay  feeding in a much faster pace than our friend Split Fin. It was fun comparing the two different styles of feeding with this smaller whale changing direction every few seconds, circling,  making complete turns but also feeding at the surface. This youngster would take quick short dives without a fluke ever raised and at what seemed like a frenzied pace. Another caudal peduncle throw was to be in our future as we watched this whale. O sudden fog rolled in from the west giving an eerie haze about us keeping us on our toes trying to keep up with this whales inconsistent moves and decreasing visibility.
     Our time  with the whales came to an end as the fog closed in and time ran short so we left  our new friend to his meal and headed east and eventually out of the fog. The Olympics were in all their glory and Hurricane Ridge sparkled in the sun. It was a great day spending quality time with two whales and having an inside peek at their lives as they went about their daily routine in our northern waters. What a privilege to share  some moments of their lives with us .
Naturalist – Lee

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Transients all day!

Anacortes am
Trip highlights:
Transient orcas from the T123 and T75B pods plus more!
Orcas catch a harbor seal!
Bald eagles and harbor seals

We traveled all the way to Canada to watch transient killer whales today!  When we arrived the whales we’re swimming in a close knit resting pattern.  We definitely identified the T123 and T75B pods plus others!  We got plenty of great views of all these animals coming up and going down together and then, right before we had to go, the action started.  It was obvious that the hunt was on with all the splashing around we saw!  It didn’t take too long to figure out they were chasing a harbor seal!  It was really obvious when one of the females did a spyhop with the seal in her mouth!  The action continued for quite a while and we saw three more spyhops before we left the scene!  On our way back to the dock we stopped at some rocks to take a look at some harbor seals.  A bald eagle flew around then landed on the rocks only to get harassed by a huge flock of gulls.  Several of the gulls tried to poop on the eagle from above and one of them actually hit him on the wing!  That was one angry eagle!

Anacortes pm
Trip highlights:
Transient orcas from multiple pods get together for a party!
Steller sea lions

We traveled to a completely different area than the morning trip to watch transient killer whales this afternoon.  The conditions were glassy calm near Protection Island where we spent lots of quality time with a transient superpod traveling toward Puget Sound together.  Some of the whales we saw inlcuded T125A, T128, T36B, T36B1, T49C and many others.  They were definitely in a playful mood and socializing seemed to be the order of the day.  The youngsters were the stars of the show.  Four of them seemed to be zooming in every which direction together playing all along the way for our entire visit with them.  They slashed, they rolled, they tail slapped, they breached, and they got a little frisky if you know what I mean!  On our way back to the dock we spotted lots of cormorants and a couple of Steller sea lions!  What a fantastic day!  Naturalist Bart Rulon

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Great Weather & Great Whales

Port Angeles

9:30am trip
*Bald Eagle at Ediz Hook
*Super Pod of Transient Orcas in Canadian waters a few miles offshore of Pedder Bay
*2 Humpback Whales swimming together identified as BCX1057 “Divot” & BCY0160 “Heather”
*Great tail slapping and tail throws by the Humpback Whales

Trip Log
The morning greeted us with sunshine and calm seas. As we passed the tip of Ediz Hook, we were able to catch a quick glance at a Bald Eagle just as it shifted its perching spot to a different beach log. Then we were off. Captain Dennis had gotten a call about Orcas across the Strait. We picked up speed and headed straight for the area. The call reported many whales together – maybe even 20. Based on the large size, the calls were coming in hypothesizing that it was the Resident Orcas coming in to the Salish Sea. As we got on scene with the Orcas, they were spread out with a few males hanging out together and a group of females and young ones gathered together. As we got closer and had a few more looks, something caught our attention. The dorsal fins of these whales did not match the typical shape of a Resident Orca – they were a bit too pointy. Indeed, they were Transient Orcas, also known as Bigg’s Orcas. It was a SuperPod of transients, meaning there were multiple families together. What a treat. Typically when we see Transient Orcas they are only traveling with their immediate family members, keeping the pod size down to about 4 members. But this was a huge pod. Seems like this is the summer of the Transient Orcas! We got some great looks at the Orcas, including some distant breaches and tail slaps.
While watching the Orcas, Captain Dennis got another call. A Humpback Whale was close by. We said goodbye to the SuperPod and headed in the direction of the Humpback Whale report-just offshore south east of Race Rocks. As we got closer the exhalation could be seen up ahead. Then suddenly a second exhalation. Could it be two Humpback Whales? Yes! It was BCX1057 “Divot” and BCY0160 “Heather” hanging out. Reports of this Humpback Duo hanging out together has been heard for the past few days. This long lasting bond is not typically seen by the Humpbacks, but it made for a great sight. As we watched, BCY0160 “Heather” really decided to put on a show. She started throwing her tail and slapping it against the surface of the water, making a really loud thud. She did it over and over and over and over again. We lost count after about 40 tail slaps! It was an amazing experience

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Captain Carl saves the day! Orcas in our backyard!


10AM Highlights
-Bald eagles
-T137 family of orcas
-T124C joins the party
-Harbor porpoise
-Bald eagles 

We headed north along the east side of Guemes Island and spotted a couple of bald eagles perched in the trees. We continued north and spotted six bald eagles on Viti Rocks. We had heard a rumor of animals to the north, so we went in that direction. Sharp-eyed Captain Carl found us whales right in our backyard! We were in luck! We had found some Bigg’s killer whales! They were members of the T137 family (T137, T137A, T137B and T137D). We watched as they trekked on their southbound path. All of a sudden another whale joined the party! Out of nowhere! It was T124C! We think he was headed north along the western shoreline of Sinclair Island, rounded the northern end and caught up with the T137s! We had been on scene for over 45 minutes before T124C showed up! As they approached Vendovi Island, we began to watch them engage in some active hunting behaviors! There was an unfortunate little harbor seal they had pushed up along the shoreline! We saw quick movements, spy hops, tail lobs! It was incredible! Eventually, they finished the hunt and we decided to go check out some other things. We swung over to the Cone Islands where we found a couple of bald eagles and their nest. At that point, the orcas had turned toward us and were swimming in the waters off the Cone Islands. We spent so much time with the animals, we had to head back toward home port.

4PM Highlights
-Harbor porpoise
-T137s and T124C orcas 
-Harbor seals
-Bald eagles 
On our evening trip, we headed down Guemes Channel and found some harbor porpoise swimming in the waters of the channel. We took a turn to the north up Rosario Strait toward Orcas Island. Purely coincidence that we found the orcas we had on the morning trip alongside the Orcas Island shoreline! The animals T124C and the T137s (T137, T137A, T137B and T137D) were fighting the tide the entire time we were with them. They barely moved in the almost three hours we spent with them! The two males, T137A and T124C hung out together the entire time, while T137 (mom) traveled with her two youngest children (T137B and T137D). A couple of times, they even turned toward the boat, allowing us to hear their exhalations! We were in and around Peapod Rocks, so we took a turn toward them and found some harbor seals hauled out. We caught back up with the orcas and watched as they continued swimming against the tide in the beautiful evening light. We eventually had to depart and we slowed down through the Cone islands and found a couple of mature bald eagles and their nest. We cruised home along the east side of Guemes Island where we passed a pelagic cormorant nesting site. Another wonderful evening on the water!

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Whales out West for both Trips!

Port Angeles.

9:30 am trip
*Harbor Seals at Ediz hook
*Several birds including Rhinoceros Auklets, Common Murres and Gulls in Port Angeles Bay
*Humpback Whales in Canadian waters, at least 4 individuals seen a few miles off shore between Becher Bay & Sooke Inlet

Check back soon for pictures and a trip log!

3:30pm Trip
*Quick views of Race Rocks lighthouse
*Transient Orcas T49C & T91, just off shore of Becher Bay.
*A few tail slaps and a breach from T49C
*Long visit with Humpback Whale CS631
*Lunge Feeding CS631off shore from Beecher Head

Check back soon for pictures and a trip log!

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