Updated: Feb 4, 2021
Recently I had the privilege of sharing a special encounter with three families of Transient Orca along with a family of six aboard my good ship “Imagine”, one of the fine vessels I captain for Maya’s Legacy Whale Watching. It was a unique and rare encounter in that we were able to witness a “greeting ceremony”.
A group headed south T36’s and 46’s, lined up fin to fin on the surface to meet the northern traveling group T99’s, who reciprocated with a similar pattern. The whales remained at the surface without submerging for a good minute or more, facing off, not swimming, breathing audibly from where we watched 300 yards away. Suddenly a tail slap by the T36’s and then an answering slap by the 99’s and it was game on! The three families blended into a mass of orca, breaching, tail slapping, cartwheels and spy hopping.
They quickly made a kill as evidenced by the gulls picking up scraps on the surface. After 20 minutes of social play and presumably prey sharing, they charged south with buoyant energy. Continuing to breach, and slap and roll as they travelled down the shoreline they exhibited behavior more a kin to resident orca than typically stealthy transients. Some even saw some “excited males” which is to be expected during social encounters like this. Males stay with their mothers so mating happens when families get together. Who knows, mark your calendars for 17 months and check back on these clans we may have calf.
As we finished our trip with this family they were rounding Turn Island and their sunlit blows erupted into an explosion of a million stars over each whale and drifted down like fairy dust.