We sure had an epic trip from Edmonds on May 10, 2023 with orcas and gray whales. It started out with excitement right off the bat when we spotted Bigg’s killer whales hunting a California sea lion near Alki Point 20 minutes into our trip.
Sea lion hunts tend to be the most dramatic hunts we see from the ocean’s top predator around here and this one even had an unexpected twist at the end. Two pods were involved in this team effort including the T124D pod and the T71B pod. T71B, Hood, was doing the bulk of the hard work as we saw her come flying out of the water on several occasions attempting to injure the sea lion with body blows. As these sea lion hunts often go, the killer whales would occasionally circle away from their prey as if they lost interest only to circle back again for another round of attacks. This male sea lion was resilient though and he made several attempts to swim away from the black and whites.
Eventually his efforts paid off when he spotted the Ferry Spokane, headed for Bainbridge Island, to hide under! We notified the ferry captain about the killer whales in their path and he stopped to give the orcas the right of way. Well, that was just the opportunity the sea lion needed to bolt for that big vessel for some refuge. We could hear the passengers on the ferry cheer loudly every time the orcas surfaced as they got closer and closer trying to cut off the sea lion’s path to the boat, but somehow the sea lion managed to make it to the Spokane for shelter. Eventually the orcas had the M.V. Spokane surrounded and we watched the drama for about 20 minutes until we decided to depart to look for more. We could still see the sea lion hiding under the bow of the ferry as we pulled away so there is a good chance he might have survived the attack, but we may never know for sure.
At that point we still had a couple of hours left in our trip so we cruised up to Hat Island to look for gray whales. It didn’t take too long before we found CRC 22, Earhart, and CRC 531, Gretchen. They came together for some socializing, and they took turns rolling around, blowing bubble blasts, and spyhopping! Earhart even did a couple of caudal peduncle throws (cartwheels) near Gretchen, which is a behavior we see more often with humpback whales than with grays. What a day! ~ Photographer/ Naturalist Bart Rulon.