Sunshine and zodiac tours watching transient Orcas - what a perfect start to this Sunday!
July 12, 2011
The guests brought the sunshine with them today! With weather reports of cloud and rain everyday all week, we were surprised but happy to have the sun shining as we left the dock to look for whales and other marine wildlife. We left Victoria harbour and headed southeast to search for whales near Constance Bank. As we cruised through the Strait of Juan de Fuca, we noticed some activity just off the shores of Trial Island. We cruised over to the lighthouse and discovered transient orcas! Transient orcas are mammal hunters who travel in small family groups up and down the BC and Washington coastlines in search of harbour seals, sea lions, and porpoises. Amongst the group were 4 females and one calf. Normally transients are very focused on hunting or traveling, not displaying playful behaviours- but not today! These orcas were holding their tailsup high above the water, spy-hopping, rolling and doing cartwheels. The whales would alternate between high speed swimming or porpoising and cruising at a leisurely pace. It was very exciting to watch the whales display so many behaviours in one trip! Because we found the whales so close to Victoria, we were able to enjoy a long visit with the whales. We then decided to head to race Rocks for the remainder of our trip to see what else we could find and marvel at the unique structure and history of Race Rocks Lighthouse. Acting like chubby lighthouse guards, dozens of harbour seals were hauled out on the base of the rocks. New pups were visible with their shiny white coats. We also spotted one lonely California Sea Lion basking in the sun. Most of the sea lions in our area have moved out to mate at different spots along the coast. With calm seas over the entire trip, we coasted back to the harbour with great new photos and new stories to share with friends and family!
This afternoon we boarded the Pacific Explorer, our company's 70 passenger vessel, to search for marine wildlife. We headed southeast in search of the transient group of orcas we saw this morning. The whales had made their way east to an area of the Strait of Juan de Fuca known as Beaumont Shoals. We came across transient killer whales belonging to the T-99 and one other matriline. Different transient groups will come together periodically to socialize, mate or hunt as a large group. It was a wonderful visit with the transients as they were uncharacteristically active. Transients face a daunting task when they are in search of food. Their prey includes seals and porpoises which both have great hearing and eyesight. Therefore these top predators of the ocean need to be stealthy and quiet. They are not often seen tail-lobbing, cartwheeling, or spy-hopping as they were today! The whales came across potential supper as they started to mill around in a small area, diving and sharply turning in different directions. Soon the orcas achieved success...one of the whales was holding a chunk of meat in its mouth, which we caught in a picture. Because we were at Beaumont Shoals, it is safe to assume that the whales caught a porpoise for their shared meal. This area boasts nutrient-rich waters which attract small fish, thus porpoises and then orcas. It was an unfortunate day for one porpoise, but a great day for the hungry orca family. Everyone needs to eat! On our way home, we experienced some slight mechanical problems, but Captain Brad was able to get us safely home. Our guests were happy to spend a little more time on the calm waters of the Salish Sea, checking out all their great photos and learning more about the wonderful animals we had the pleasure to spend the afternoon with!