Sunshine and zodiac tours watching transient Orcas - what a perfect start to this Sunday!
August 10, 2011
We made a bearing of due south out of Victoria Harbour this morning, slowly looping around Constance Bank and cruising to the east, scanning the horizons for Humpbacks, Greys, and anything else promising. We ended up near False Bay on the west side of San Juan Island. There were Orcas all around, Gill-netters with their nets fishing, and us just enjoying the show. The Orcas were identified as the J-pod and K-pod who have been traveling together most of this summer. We watched as they cruised without effort around the nets and boats, stealing fish and chasing more into the nets. Blackberry (J27) was quickly identified by his unique open finger saddle patch, the crispness of the swirl setting him apart from Onyx's (L87) similar swirl. He was enjoying the calm morning with Skagit (K13) and her family including the newest Orca in the Southern Residents, K44. Only a few weeks old, this little Orca is still orange and tiny compared to family members, but none the less, very well cared for.
The rest of our trip took us to Trial Island with its pretty red and white lighthouse and a very handsome mature Bald Eagle perched on one of the rocks. There was a plethora of Harbour Seals swimming in the water, unusual for these lazy creatures on such a nice sun bathing day. Overall it was a beautiful trip with baby Orcas, flat calm waters, Eagles and more!
This afternoon had a different pacing, we quickly found Orcas off the southern tip of Trial Island moving east. It was the L-pod going to meet up with the other two Southern Resident pods. They were close together and traveling fast, (one of the best ways to watch these magnificent animals). Between the Captain and both Naturalists on board as well as some wonderful photos taken by passengers, we were able to identify a great number of our favourite L-pod whales. There was the female Racer (L72) and Crewser (L92) with his distinctive curved dorsal fin, the L2 subgroup made up of Grace (L2) and her grandchildren, the L12 subgroup which is Alexis' grandchildren and great-grandchild: Mega (L41), Matia (L77), Calypso (L94) and Calypso's baby Molly (L113), and Nugget's (L55) matriline. We followed them around Seabird Point on Discovery Island to Beaumont Shoals before finally turning back. On our return trek we stopped by Fulford Reefs near Chatham Island and saw not one, but two Bald Eagles! There were also Seals swimming in the kelp, black eyes shining at us warily. Baynes Channel took us around the corner to Cadboro Bay, Oak Bay, Trial Island and home to Victoria again. It was an afternoon of delightful abundance!
This evening we headed out on the Strait of Juan de Fuca aboard the Pacific Explorer. It was a beautiful evening that had us riding the seas on calm waters. We made our way over to the familiar waters off San Juan Island, WA. Guests and crew were overjoyed when we spotted the smooth and glossy black dorsal fins slicing the surface of the water...we found ORCAS!! Killer whales being one of the most iconic symbols of BC's coast, are a special thing to see. We had members of L-pod swimming around, being quite playful and searching for salmon. L-pod is the largest pod of orcas amongst the Southern Residents, with 42 members. We had the most amazing pass by the L-12 matriline which includes Alexis (L-12), her offspring Mega (L-41), daughters Matia (L-77) and Calypso (L-94), and Calypso's first calf, Molly (L-113). It was breath-taking to see how close the family swims together, actually touching eachother as they surfaced. Not only were there many whales to look at, the activity of the hydrophone was epic! The whales were squeaking, whistling and clicking to each other constantly. There is nothing quite like listening to the language of another species, even if we don't know what they are saying, it still sounds beautiful! After a fabulous night with the orcas we headed back to historical Victoria for a cruise in the harbour to show our guests the beauty of our city all lit up at night. Overall, it was a picturesque evening on the water, we couldn't have asked for a better encounter.