Sunshine and zodiac tours watching transient Orcas - what a perfect start to this Sunday!
August 12, 2011
t was a sunny morning as we left the dock with our guests on the Pacific Explorer. We had a tip that there may be some whale activity to the east of Victoria. As we neared the United States border on the water, a fog bank appeared and shrouded our boat in a spooky and cool cloud of grey. How were we ever to find whales in this?! Well Captain Brad found them off the starboard side of the boat, moving very fast through the choppy waters. We watched a large group of orcas, all members of J and K pods. The whales made a quick turn and they were out of sight. We searched and searched keeping in contact with other whale watching boats, being careful manoeuvring in this dense fog. It took some time, but on the edge of the fog bank we found the orcas once again! We saw a couple of males with their 2 meter dorsal fins, females cruising around, and young calves staying tight to their family members. With both J and K pod in the area, there were approximately 47 in the area. The whales appeared to be traveling and using their echolocation to search out tasty salmon in the waters below. Happy to have found the orcas again for another visit, we watched until we had to make our way back to Victoria. We traveled the Strait of Juan de Fuca as the sound of fog horns from all the boats rang out around us. Almost magically the harbour appeared out of the mist and we arrived back to sunny skies and warm air! What an adventure when you feel like you are lost in the unknown, with only the sights and sounds of whales to guide you!
On today's afternoon trip, guests joined us on the Orca Spirit, our 45-foot aluminum vessel. We were pleased to see that the fog started to lift as we headed east along the coast of the city of Victoria. With sightings of J and K pods earlier this morning, we hoped to relocate the whales. As we neared San Juan Island, the fog surrounded us again, but the sun did poke its way through the grey mist. Soon we spotted many orcas! The adult males were easy to pick out, with their straight back edge and impressive height. The females and juveniles have shorter dorsal fins that are curved. There were many whales around us and we were able to identify several of them including K-20 or Spock, Mike (J-26), and Lobo (K-26). Spock is a female orca born in 1986. She has an interesting story, as she was believed to be a male because of her tall, straight dorsal fin. It was only revealed that she was in fact a female when she was seen with her first calf Comet (K-38). Oops! Sorry Spock, but you make a wonderful Mom!
Mike (J-26) is a favourite whale amongst the population, as he was named after whale researcher Michael Bigg, who passed away the same year Mike was born in 1991. Mike has a favourite buddy in his pod named Blackberry, who also turned 20 this season. Lobo (K-26). is a young male in K-pod, just reaching sexual maturity. This is good news for the southern resident population as K-pod has not had many mature males for a long time. Orcas will not breed within their own family, so now that Lobo is mature, the females in J and L pods have another option for a mate! The whales were moving in different directions on all sides of the boat. Guests were fascinated with their swift, smooth movements and contrasting colouration. One of the highlights of the trip had to be the vocalizations coming from the hydrophone. The whales were sure chatty this afternoon! We heard all kinds of calls from clicks, squeals, whistles and moans. The vocalizations of orcas can reach over 10 miles, so I am sure we weren't the only ones listening to the gossip...if only we could understand what they are saying! It was a pleasure to have such inquisitive guests on board, full of great questions and excitement. We appreciate everyone coming out to watch the whales in the wild. Our trip home was calm and beautiful in the sunshine. We even had time to stop in at Trial Island to see Harbour Seals relaxing on the rocks and soaking up the sun! Cheers to a wonderful trip!