June 2nd - T49A's and T65A's near Patos Island (plus bonus humpbacks!)

So many whales on Saturday! And so much surface activity!!

 The scenery along our coast is A++++++! Photo by Natalie Reichenbacher

The scenery along our coast is A++++++! Photo by Natalie Reichenbacher

 Tail slaps can be used to communicate to nearby whales. It makes a loud sound and certainly gets everyone's attention! Photo by Natalie Reichenbacher

Tail slaps can be used to communicate to nearby whales. It makes a loud sound and certainly gets everyone's attention! Photo by Natalie Reichenbacher

Both of our vessels, the semi-covered "Quick Change II" and open zodiac "Cascadia", headed south on Saturday afternoon towards a report of killer whales. Two pods, the T49A's and T65A's (including the new, extra cute baby!) had been spotted traveling and socializing together. The 49A's are a family pod of 5 whales and the T65A's are a family of 6 whales - that's right, 11 whales splashing around together!

Matriarch "Nan" (T49A) is a successful mother who was born in 1986 and has been having calves since 2001 when her oldest son "Noah" (T49A1) was born. Her eldest daughter "Judy" (T49A2) was born in 2007 and often travels separately from the rest of the T49A's. Having the eldest daughter break off and travel on her own is common to see with Transient orca family pods, perhaps to increase her chances of mating and to start her own matriline eventually. 

 T65A2 was slapping his tail repeatedly and rolling around with whales from the T49A pod. Look closely and you'll notice he is missing a big chunk of his fluke! These marine-mammal hunting killer whales often show battle scars like this one here. Photo by Natalie Reichenbacher

T65A2 was slapping his tail repeatedly and rolling around with whales from the T49A pod. Look closely and you'll notice he is missing a big chunk of his fluke! These marine-mammal hunting killer whales often show battle scars like this one here. Photo by Natalie Reichenbacher

 Half breach sequence! Photo by Natalie Reichenbacher

Half breach sequence! Photo by Natalie Reichenbacher

 A juvenile orca breached at least three times for us! Photo by Natalie Reichenbacher

A juvenile orca breached at least three times for us! Photo by Natalie Reichenbacher

 We were lucky enough to NOAA on the water doing research! Photo by Natalie Reichenbacher

We were lucky enough to NOAA on the water doing research! Photo by Natalie Reichenbacher

T49A's youngest calf was born in 2014 and now eats marine mammals just like it's mom! Hunting for harbour seals, sea lions, and porpoises takes many skills that are learned over years and years of practicing with mom and family. This young whale has been studying it's big brothers' and mom's hunting strategies closely and will have crucial role in helping to capture prey for the family to share.

NOAA had a zodiac on scene collecting samples for whale research. See the person on the bow with a pool net! Scat and prey samples are collected to give us a better idea of what these whales are eating. Scat also contains hormones and bacteria, both which tell us so much about the whales' health.

 Photo by Natalie Reichenbacher

Photo by Natalie Reichenbacher

The 65A's are led by martiarch T65A who is also pretty famous for being an amazing mom! Less than a month ago a new calf, T65A6, was seen with T65A, making it her 5th surviving calf! Killer whale calves are known to have a survival rate of only 50%. Killer whales have the longest gestation period out of any marine mammal, an astounding 17 months! After that the calf needs to learn very quickly how to swim and communicate and needs to nurse for 1-2 years. That's a lot of work for mama!

 Photo by Natalie Reichenbacher

Photo by Natalie Reichenbacher

 Photo by Natalie Reichenbacher

Photo by Natalie Reichenbacher

 Photo by Natalie Reichenbacher

Photo by Natalie Reichenbacher

Our guests were thrilled to see the baby peek its head and blowhole up out of the water right next to mom. The baby even jumped a few times! Next to the towering fin of a mature male, this jumping baby looked like a mere salmon (even though it already weighs over 400lbs!). 

 Calf T65A6 is the newest addition to this large family pod! Photo by Natalie Reichenbacher

Calf T65A6 is the newest addition to this large family pod! Photo by Natalie Reichenbacher

On the way to the whales we stopped to see a large group of male California sea lions near the pulp mill and on the way home we stopped at Entrance Island to see Steller sea lions. So many marine mammals squeezed into a 5 hour tour!

 A steller sea lion clambering over a barnacle covered haul out. Photo by Natalie Reichenbacher

A steller sea lion clambering over a barnacle covered haul out. Photo by Natalie Reichenbacher

Passengers onboard the Quick Change II spotted two humpback whales after they'd visited with the orcas. Double species day for some of our guests!

 Zig-zag/Trinity, pictured here, is a whale that has been seen in the Salish Sea by Keta Coastal Conservation since 2013! Photo by Lili Simon

Zig-zag/Trinity, pictured here, is a whale that has been seen in the Salish Sea by Keta Coastal Conservation since 2013! Photo by Lili Simon

Jilann LechnerComment