Monday we witnessed a real rarity during our morning trip from Edmonds and the am 4 hour trip from Port Townsend! The T18 pod of Bigg’s killer whales hunted a minke whale right before our passenger’s eyes! This impressive pod includes 3 generations of adults; T18 (Esperanza, the grandmother), T19 (Nootka, the daughter), T19B (Galiano, adult grandson), and T19C (Spouter, adult grandson).
On this particular day these orcas we separated, 2 and 2, by about a quarter mile searching for prey north of Hein Bank. T18 was with her youngest grandson, T19C, to the west and T19 was with her oldest son, T19B, to the east. All seemed normal, with regular breaths at the surface until suddenly both groups of orcas started speed swimming (porpoising) at high speed eastward! It didn’t take long for us to realize they were chasing a minke whale because the baleen whale burst out of the water porpoising away from them as fast as possible. Minke whales are fast and able to reach speeds of 20-24 mph while killer whales can swim 30 mph. Apparently this minke whale was somewhat of an olympic champion because the orcas seemed to get further and further behind with each breath. The chase was still going on when we ran out of time on our trips, but we heard from other boats that the minke whale did escape!
Witnessing a whale hunt like this is definitely rare, but the T18 pod has hunted and killed minke whales here in the past including one that they caught on the morning of September 12, 2018 close to where this most recent hunt happened. We just never know what might happen out here with these fascinating animals! Enjoy some pictures from the dramatic chase! Photographer/ Naturalist Bart Rulon