Sunshine and zodiac tours watching transient Orcas - what a perfect start to this Sunday!
July 24, 2011
Now in my seventh season at Orca Spirit, whale watching and whales in particular still continue to amaze me. This morning, myself (naturalist Corey), our crew of Captain Brad, First Mate Liz and fellow naturalist Elizabeth and a great group of guests headed to Hein Bank in search of whales. Yesterday evening we were on scene nearby with a group of resident orcas and were hoping to find them in the area again. Hein Bank is also a popular feeding ground for minke whales. Little did we know what an amazing experience this morning's trip would be.
We arrived on scene at Hein Bank in stunningly calm waters and beautiful sunny skies. The abundant bird life in the area with an assortment of gulls, guillemots, murres, murrelets and auklets was truly amazing and a sign of what was to come. Shortly after arriving, our Captain spotted a minke whale. Heading over to investigate, we soon realized that there was way more than one. We ended up having an exhilarating encounter with at least 5 feeding minke whales. They were lunge feeding frequently, and we could see their white undersides as they broke the surface. Often, two minke whales would surface side by side, almost unheard of! To have so many minkes feeding in such a small area was truly amazing. However, the highlight of the trip was an unbelievable minke whale breach! This was the first time I have ever seen a minke whale breach and something myself and the guests who were luckily enough to see it would not soon forget.
Perhaps it was the bright sunny day with excellent views of both Mount Baker to the east and the Olympic mountains to the south that brought us an Orca super-pod this afternoon; regardless, we lucked out with both weather and whales. Our journey in the Pacific Explorer took us west up the coast of Vancouver Island to a spot known as Otter Point. Once there we commenced watching a nice group of about 10 Orcas casually rolling around, waking up from an afternoon nap. Suddenly we realized we had greatly underestimated the number of whales present when another group of at least 15 all burst up together, still grouped and half asleep. They had obviously been dozing under the surface and we were caught by surprise as the makings of a super-pod started shaping up. Over the next few minutes more and more little bunches of Orcas were appearing, shaking off their drowsiness and starting to be active and playful. Before we knew it there were upwards of 40 individuals in the area, some sleeping, giving us ideal photos as multiple whales emerged at one time, others feeling exceptionally exuberant with tail slaps and spyhops. There was a lot of rolling upside down, white undersides to the sky, which seemed to indicate a certain amount of romance in the air; but then again, there's nothing like the meeting of multiple pods to get these whales in the "mood".
The best part of the trip had to be the sighting of a new calf, still orange from the amniotic fluids in the mother's womb. This little whale was staying close to mum, bouncing around on the water like a multicoloured dolphin amongst the much larger adult Orcas. The consensus as we departed the scene a while later, the whales literally waving goodbye with pectoral fins in the air, was that we had been treated to an awesome trip with our friends from J, K, and L pods.