Excited to see our new shuttle arrive today! http://t.co/VUEU6V6puV
Well it’s that time of year when things are coming to a close. Summer seems so busy, but then it is gone before you know it! It was a busy season for Orca Spirit Adventures, with the addition of our new boat, the Orca Spirit II, and the usual bustle of whale watching trips.
The Orca Spirit II is the company’s newest addition to the fleet. It is a 100 foot catamaran, with a capacity of 168 passengers. Being a luxurious boat, it was most often used for charter events, including a wedding, Symphony Splash, Canada Day celebrations, and many dinner cruises. The Orca Spirit II did not get left out of our whale watching tours, as we often used it when we had many guests, especially on days when the cruise ships come to visit Victoria. With word out that the Orca Spirit II is a perfect venue for all kinds of parties and events, we are looking forward to using it even more next season!
At the heart of our business are the whales, and it was a great season for sightings! The Southern Resident Killer Whale population is the group of whales that we see most often throughout the season. Over the winter of 2010-20100, we sadly lost four members of the population including Ruffles (J-1), Keet (J-33), Georgia (K-11), and Canuck (L-7). Although we miss all the whales that pass on, the hardest felt loss was Ruffles. He was the oldest male in the population and the icon of the Southern Residents. With his characteristic wavy dorsal fin, you could see him from a couple of miles away! But Ruffles lived to a ripe old age of 59, and new paternity tests reveal that he left us with many of his offspring! We also had two new babies this summer! Little L-117 was born in June and K-44, already identified as a male, was born in July. The calves entertained guests with their playful behaviour and tiny appearance. We hope to see more new calves when we return next summer. The transient orcas frequented our waters throughout the summer too. We had great whale watching trips where the transients were engaged in hunting seals and porpoises, and we saw lots of transients being uncharacteristically active, breaching, spy-hopping and playing. Many great photos of the transients were taken this season!
It was also a great summer for humpback sightings. Though they are most common from mid-August to the end of October, we did see a few in the spring and even one in July. The humpback population is increasing in the North Pacific, and we now get to enjoy more humpbacks in the Strait of Juan de Fuca every year! Minke whales were spotted on many trips, usually foraging at Hein Bank. The most exciting event with the minkes this season, was the appearance of a few calves with their mothers. It is rare for us to see minkes with their calves in such protected waters, as they are primarily an open ocean species. We also had a few trips this year where the minkes breached, a VERY rare behaviour for this type of whale. Opposite of last season, we did not have many sightings of any gray whales. Gray whales are not a common species in the area, so some years they are around often, and some years they are elusive. The good news is that the North Pacific population is believed to be at pre-whaling time numbers. We hope they come for more visits to our area in the future.
Another rare species to see in our waters are the Pacific White-Sided Dolphins. In June we were fortunate to see a group of these fascinating acrobats right outside the harbour. We had many trips where we saw Harbour Porpoises and Dall’s Porpoises. These speedy cetaceans patrolled the tide lines searching for fish and leaped above the surface as they engaged in speed swimming. We can’t forget to mention all the Harbour Seals, California and Stellar’s Sea Lions. The majority of the time, these chunky animals crowded the shores of Race Rocks Lighthouse, showing guests how rowdy and loud they can really be. We also enjoyed countless other marine creatures from bald eagles to elephant seals. Every trip was a new adventure with new animals to see and exciting behaviours to behold.
As the season ends, we have already started to plan for next year. We are all looking forward to spring, when we can get back out on the water and introduce guests new and returning to the wildlife of the Salish Sea. If you have never went whale watching before, or are a seasoned watcher, come join us next year, in what will be a promising and fantastic season!