On this episode of After the Breach podcast, hosts and professional guides, Jeff Friedman and Sara Shimazu, talk about a recent interesting encounter they had on May 20th with two brothers from the Bigg’s killer whale population, T125A and T128. Also joining us is returning guest, Monika Wieland Shields from the Orca Behavior Institute (OBI) who was also out on the water and provides her own observations from that day.
Starting out the episode the three talk about the latest sightings in the Salish Sea. It has been a busy spring and there has been a lot happening. We’ve had some of our more famous humpback whales return, tons of Bigg’s killer whales sightings, and even J-pod returned just before the end of May! Monika shares some interesting insights courtesy of OBI.
On May 20th, two killer whales were reported south of San Juan Island in the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca. The two were quickly identified as T125A and T128. These boys belong to an interesting family of four, led by their mother T125. In 2015 the matriline was seen in the Salish Sea for the first time in 22 YEARS. They were around for a few days but then disappeared again. Since then these two brothers seem to have dispersed from their mom and have been making annual forays into the area where they’ve quickly become whale watching favorites. They usually travel fairly tight together but last month when they were seen they were traveling in the general vicinity of each other but separated over a mile from the other as they traveled north into Rosario Strait.
Once there they came together briefly before separating again. T128 went into the inner San Juan Islands through Thatcher Pass while T125A continued up Rosario Strait. When Jeff and Monika caught up with T128 he was not really going anywhere and was circling on the west side of Blakely Island. What they did notice right away was that he had some pretty deep rake marks from another killer whale on his dorsal fin!
Meanwhile T125A was continuing up Rosario Strait where Sara got on scene with him. He quickly turned and headed back down the strait in the direction he had come from and started vocalizing and pushing a lot of water as he came up to the surface, sometimes rolling and slapping his dorsal fin or tail lobbing. It really seemed like he was trying to be loud and obvious as to where he was.
Jeff reported that T128 turned and actually went back out into Rosario Strait where he would have heard his brother and then quickly turned and went back into the inner islands. He was last seen heading west past Lopez Island ferry terminal and T125A was left still heading south in Rosario Strait.
There’s a lot of room for speculation and human interpretation into what happened here, if anything. Did the two brothers have an argument and needed some time apart? Was T125A the culprit to those rake marks on his brother? There are so many questions and we can only guess as to what may have happened. We had hoped they would show up the next day but they disappeared overnight and haven’t been seen since.
That is until a few days before we were going to post this episode; guess who showed up!? The brothers, reunited, and in the case of T128, all healed! Where were they the last three weeks? Did they reunite the night of the 20th or did they take some more time apart?
We have an upcoming photography workshop in September! Details are available on our website www.afterthebreachpodcast.com or you can send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. It’s September 23rd and 24th and we will spend each day on the water with catered lunches and a ton of information to share!