Sunshine and zodiac tours watching transient Orcas - what a perfect start to this Sunday!
September 22, 2011
It was a beautiful day to embark on a journey to see whales today! The sun was shining and the waters once again were smooth as glass. We took our guests east of Victoria, to the famous San Juan Island on Washington, a favourite foraging spot of the resident killer whales. We approached the island in an area known as False Bay. We stopped the boat to watch the oncoming parade of orcas making their way in our direction. Shutting your engines off is the best way to watch whales, as we are not making any noise so the whales are not interrupted when they are echolocating or talking to each other. As many whales swam by, we were able to identify members from all three of the pods that make up the Southern Resident population....we had SUPERPOD! Superpod does not happen all that frequently throughout the season. All three pods get together to socialize, form stronger bonds between whales and to mate.
Some of the whales formed a big group near shore. As they circled and dove, we could tell that they were all actively engaged in hunting salmon, the orcas primary food source. The most amazing part was that three big males, one from each pod, were all side-by-side. Just like superpod is rare to see, so is seeing 3 males from different pods all together. They are all great friends, but there are not tht many adult males in the population, so they are usually more spread out. All the whales have an alphanumeric name as well as a common name. The 3 males amongst the fishing group were L-41 or Mega, J-26 or Mike, and K-21 or Cappuccino! All have distinguishing saddle-patches and dorsal fins that make them easy to identify. Another special treat today had to be the activity on the hydrophone. We have a hydrophone onboard that we can lower into the water and listen to the whales if they are chatting. Well a group of teenage girls had nothing on these orcas today! The speaker was blasting with squeaks, whistles, clicks and grunts. The whales were especially social today, and with lots of young calves in the area, it was not surprising to hear so much chatter. All the whales speak the same language, but each pod has a unique dialect.
After a most amazing visit with the orcas, we started to make our way back to Victoria. As we cruised away from San Juan Island, we came across a school of Dall's Porpoises. These fast black and white cetaceans were leaping out of the waer, riding in our wake, and even swimming along the side of the boat. They surrounded us! Porpoises here love the bounty of small fish that feeding along the nutrient upwellings in the strait. Dall's Porpoises are highly social and love boats much like many species of dolphins. This is in contrast to the much more shy and elusive Harbour Porpoises that also live in the area. With a trip jam packed with excitement, we had to make our way home. Guests and crew were very happy and looking forward to viewing all the snapshots they took on their trip!