Sunshine and zodiac tours watching transient Orcas - what a perfect start to this Sunday!
July 18, 2011
This morning we pushed off from the docks with hopes that the sun would find its way through the clouds today. To our delight, the sun broke through the grey skies half way through our trip, making it a wonderful morning for whale watching. We headed over to False Bay, an area along the western shores of San Juan Island. The ride was smooth as the water was calm as it can be. We spotted a few dorsal fins in the distance, making their way in our direction. The Captain turned off the engines so that we were not making noise for the whales, and so that we could hear the whales exhaling their massive plumes of breath into the air. The whales appeared to be milling around, using their sonar to hunt for some high protein breakfast in the form of Chinook salmon. We watched as the whales would turn in different directions, and we listened to their squeaks and whistles on the hydrophone we dropped down into the water. We were all intrigued by the tapping noise that is the whales' echolocation. It is interesting to get to hear what the whales hear, even though their hearing is much better than ours.
We were able to identify two of the several whales we saw. The whales were members of J-pod, the area’s most frequently seen pod among the southern residents. We identified the male as J-30, better known as Riptide, and his mother J-14 or Samish. Samish was born in 1974 and is mother to Riptide, Hy'Shqa, Suttles and two other offspring who are no longer alive. Riptide is a frisky young male born in 1995. He is approaching sexual maturity at sixteen. It was an amazing experience with the orcas this morning, everyone on board appreciated the grace, skill and intelligence of these most amazing animals!
On our wayb ack to Victoria, we stopped at Trial Island to watch the Harbour Seals soaking up the sun, as it has not been out for days! We were also fortunate to see three bald eagles! There was one adult and two juveniles, distinct in their all brown plumage, unlike the white headed adults. Guests were treated to a range of the wildlife that we are so lucky to have here on the west coast of Canada!
This afternoon we experienced the nicest weather we have had in days around Victoria! The sun was shining and the water was like a mirror. Calm conditions like we had today allow our boats to cruise at top speed and spot whales from a long ways away. We head for San Juan Island in search of the whales we seen previously this morning. Word on the radio is that the whales had made their way north around Lime Kiln Park. This is the only state park established n the United States with the specific purpose of whale watching from land. Boats are required to stay one half a mile offshore in the park, as the area is seen as critical habitat for the whales, so they get extra room to carry out their daily activities. We saw several different whales including two big males, easily distinguished by their 6-foot tall dorsal fins. There were many females, and we were excited to find three calves as well. The population has had a bit of a baby boom in the last few years, good news for a population that is enlisted as endangered in both Canada and the United States. The whales were successful hunters this afternoon, we saw some exciting chases and caught glimpses of shiny silvery salmon in their mouths as they surfaced. Orcas need between 200 and 300 pounds of food a day to sustain their active lifestyle. It was an exciting afternoon with the whales and the warm sunshine made things all the better! We stopped off the banks of Trial Island again to see if the bald eagles were still around. Unfortunately they must have been off fishing, but we did get to enjoy watching the Harbour Seals, some of them with new white-furred pups by their sides. It was a great finish to a day full of whales and other wildlife of the Pacific Northwest!