One of those 'we are so lucky to be in such a beautiful city' type of days! http://t.co/pmkVhOHZ44
September 4, 2011
We set off from Victoria Harbour this morning on the calmest waters we can possibly hope for. The Pacific Explorer set course towards the west in search of sea life. We spotted for activity all along our trip, looking for puffs of mist, dorsal fins or any kind of splashing. We decided to scout around Race Rocks and take in the awesome scenery that the area has to offer. Race Rocks is a marine reserve home to the famous black and white lighthouse, Harbour Seals and a couple hundred sea lions. The lighthouse is the second oldest of its kind, directing boats away from its rocky location since 1860. Steller Sea Lions, California Sea Lions and Harbour Seals enjoy the lighthouse as well, as they make the small group of islands their home, noisily basking on the rocks and make the area smell ever so pleasant!! We got to witness the comical battles between the big males, as they fight over prime rock space or quite possibly because they are bored.
We later made our way southeast to look for more action. We spotted a blow in the air and a sharply curved dorsal fin rise above the water....it was a MINKE whale! This is a very rare sighting way out west in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, we usually see them at an area called Hein Bank, which is much farther east of where we were today. Minkes are the smallest of the baleen whales that enter the straight. They average between 21 and 23 feet long, and are very torpedo shaped, with a white band on their short pectoral fins. It was fun to spend time with the unpredictable whale, as it zig-zagged and swam fast through the water. We had a great rip back to Victoria, as the sun continued to shine and the water was smooth as glass!
With a large group of excited guests, we headed out onto the Salish Sea, hoping to find marine mammals, especially whales. The Captain headed south to spot for misty blows in the air, or large dark shapes coming up from the water. We had no luck at first, but as we moved west, something blew in the distance. As we neared the area, we spotted a humpback whale! This is a great time of year to see humpbacks in our area, as some individuals stop in for some last minute fishing and relaxing before their long journey down to Hawaii. We are very fortunate to see humpbacks as they were almost hunted to extinction and were absent in these waters for nearly 100 years. It was not until 1997 that the first humpback reappeared in the area. This female now returns every season, along with many other humpbacks, which we love and appreciate. The humpback we were watching would surface three or four times close together, then dive for several minutes. The 18-foot wide tail fluke impressed all on board, making the power of the humpback easy to imagine.
A visit to Race Rocks Lighthouse concluded our trip. We marvelled at the 151 year old, towering lighthouse, looking majestic in front of the picturesque Olympic Mountains. We also found the Steller Sea Lions, California Sea Lions and Harbour Seals taking advantage of the sunny weather as they spread out along the rocks warming themselves in the sun. Never quiet, the sea lions treated us to the roaring, growling and barking that characterizes these massive beasts. Steller Sea Lions can weigh up to 2500 pounds and their skulls are larger than that of a grizzly! Our trip home was calm and beautiful, with sightings of porpoises flashing here and there along the way. It was a beautiful afternoon spent on the coast of Vancouver Island!