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Dorsal Dread

The Dorsal Spin
Elder male T87 (Slot Fin) with T90s in Haro Strait, 12/30/13. Photo © Mark Malleson.

Since the Southern Residents left us in January, Vashon-Maury waters have been drearily devoid of tall dorsal fins. That changed on April 4, when ten or more Transient killer whales blazed down the Sound from Edmonds. In East Passage, NOAA researchers clocked one male in the group, T102, at 12 km per hour. A solitary female dragged a seal for 20 minutes. What became of the hapless seal is unclear.

The mammal munchers milled off Point Defiance for about 40 minutes before entering the Narrows late in the day. Thirteen panicked Harbor seals and one California sea lion gathered near the Tahlequah dock, far away from the dreaded dorsals. On April 5, between downpours, the Transients emerged from the Narrows. They split into two groups. Most of the females and juveniles went north in Colvos Pass, while the adult males and a few others headed into East Pass. Heavy rain hindered visibility.

Several orcas in the contingent were Vashon semi-regulars. I wrote about T87 -- “Slot Fin” -- and the T90 matriline with whom he travels in previous Dorsal Spins. This week’s photo clearly shows T87’s distinctive dorsal slot. Other Transients present in the encounter: matriarch T101 and her sprouter sons, T101A and T101B; 30-year-old male T102, listed as a “probable” son of T101; and massive adult male T103, who is age 46 or older.

We appreciate the helpful reports from Kelly, Bob, and especially Simon. The next time whales grace our waters, we want to hear from more Islanders. Now, put the VHP number in your fancy gadgets.

Please support the work of the Vashon Hydrophone Project (VHP): REPORT LOCAL WHALE SIGHTINGS ASAP TO 206-463-9041206-463-9041, as well as seal pups and sick, injured, or dead marine mammals on Island beaches. Prompt reports to the VHP expedite vital data collection efforts and sustain an accurate record of whale sightings for Vashon-Maury. Send photos to Orca Annie at


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