Sunshine and zodiac tours watching transient Orcas - what a perfect start to this Sunday!
September 24, 2011
Guests today joined us on the Orca Spirit II, our 100-foot catamaran vessel. Fog blanketed the harbour and waterfront, but it would not stop us from finding whales! Ten minutes out of the harbour, the fog dissipated and we were met by sunny skies and perfectly smooth waters. We headed to the west towards Race Rocks Lighthouse where we met up with Southern Resident Orcas making their way east. It did not take long to identify L-41, commonly known as Mega, and L-92 or Cruiser. Both of these whales are members of the largest resident pod...L-pod. Males are easiest to identify as their dorsal fins tower 6 feet into the air. We ended up with whales on all sides of the boat. We were lucky today as many of the whales were displaying active behaviours. We first saw a breach, then 3 whales all beside each other decided to swim with their bellies up, raising their pectoral fins and slapping their tails! It was breathtaking! We were also treated to spyhops, where the whales lift their head vertically out of the water to have a look around above the surface. We soon identified L-54 or Ino, a female born in 1977 and mother to 3 calves since 2001 named Indigo, Coho, and one of the season's new calves not yet named. A 21 year old male named Mystery (L-85) was also seen, swimming with his family and playing along with the rest. With the help of Mercedes, one of our naturalist we were able to identify many more members of L-pod after reviewing the many photos that we were able to get. Alexis (L-12) and Ocean Sun (L-25) are 2 of the oldest whales in the southern resident population, and are both matriarch leaders of L-pod. Alexis was born in 1933 and Ocean Sun was born in 1924! You can look at pictures of all these whales on the Center for Whale Research's website: www.whaleresearch.com.
After one of the most amazing encounters with the orcas this season, we headed southwest where we found 2 humpback whales! We rarely get to see more than one species of whale in one trip, so today was extra special. It was a mother and calf duo, who surfaced many times, showing us their enormous tail flukes before going below the water for several minutes. Humpbacks are on their southern migration to Hawaii, where they spend the winter having their calves and courting for next year's babies. On average, a humpback female has a calf every two years, a lot more often than an orca who average 4 to 8 years between births. Time flies when you are watching whales, so before we knew it, we had to leave so that we could go to Race Rocks before going home. At Race Rocks, we found 2 types of sea lions, California and Steller. These massive animals weigh 1500 and 2500 pounds, respectively. They covered the rocks, the dock, and the "yard" of the lighthouse, enjoying the sun. We never have a trip out to Race Rocks without seeing several battles between the sea lions, fighting over space or just out of grumpiness! Our way home was spent chatting excitedly about today's experience of a lifetime and analyzing all the great photos we took! Thank you for joining us on our trip, it was truly fantastic!