One of those 'we are so lucky to be in such a beautiful city' type of days! http://t.co/pmkVhOHZ44
September 11, 2011
The glassy water and warm sun never left us all day. Even first thing in the morning it was warm enough to be quite comfortable on the outer decks and that's where most passengers could be found. We cruised out of Victoria Harbour and headed East to the south/west side of San Juan Island in Washington. The resident J-pod was grouped up there, heading north, fishing and playing as they went. We found a good spot and turned off our engines while the whales passed. One of the first we identified was Granny (J2) who recently celebrated her 100th birthday. She was at the front of the group, leading them to a spot of good fishing for the day, (it can only be assumed that after 100 years she would know the best spots to find a tasty Chinook Salmon along these shores). Following not far behind her was handsome young male Blackberry (J27) and his doppelganger Onxy (L87) who left his own L-pod family and had more or less become a J-pod whale. The other J's cruised passed us with the occasional spyhop or pectoral wave and we were even treated to two breaches! When a larger group passed we put our hydrophone down and listened to the happy chatter of the whales as well as their echo-locating clicks. When we finally turned and cruised back for Victoria and Canada it was with smiles and some excellent photos. Just another relaxing morning spent watching and listening to the Southern Resident J-pod!
Our afternoon trip was spent a little differently. Once past Ogden Point we turned West not East and found us a large Transient male sneaking through the Sea Lion infested waters near Race Rocks Lighthouse. He was T31, one of the oldest male Transients at the comfortable age of 56. Males usually only live to be around 60 so he was an exceptionally vital fellow and he was showing us how he managed to stay so fit and healthy by stalking the nearby Pinnipeds. We followed him from the tidal currents around Race Rocks all the way to Pedder Bay where he disappeared. We took the hint and left him be, cruising off West to find some other adventure. Not too far away we found another group of Transients, this time two females and a very large male. They were out in the middle of the Juan de Fuca Strait, just south/west of Race Rocks, and they were heading quickly towards the Olympic Peninsula in Washington. They were being very good for Transients, staying close to the surface and taking relatively short dives. They were also staying in a more or less straight line, which is rather uncharacteristic for most Transients. This made it easy for passengers to get some pictures of the male's huge dorsal fin and the females on either side of him. We identified the group as the T68 pod. When some other boats began to arrive we made our departure and headed for home. We of course cruised through Race Rocks with its stripy lighthouse and smelly, loud Sea Lions on the way, the chocolate coloured California Sea Lions barking at us and the tawny Stellers growling and fighting each other on the rocks.
The evening was again different from both previous day trips. We went straight to Beecher Bay where the T41 and T109 Transients were hunting for seals in the little bays and coves along the shoreline. There was a new baby with them, still orange from its mother's amniotic fluids, as well as several females and another youngster. At one point they paused, circling and we were able to see the whites of their bellies in the clear water as they in turn looked us over. Then one of the young whales did something that was kind of hilarious and definitely interesting. It started practicing its hunting skills on some of the Common Murres and Rhinoceros Auklets. The poor little birds were frantically trying to get away, but their wings are much better suited for swimming than flying. Normally they would have dove to avoid their predators, but this time that was the last place they wanted to be, an impish young Orca with its gaping mouth only inches behind their tail feathers. Luckily for the birds the whale became bored quickly and swam off after mom. We took this as our cue also and went off to find other whales. We cruised for a bit then Captain Brad stopped us in the middle of the glassy Strait of Juan de Fuca and we sat there. All of a sudden a Humpback whale appeared and everyone praised his whale senses, no one else could have guessed that the quiet waters here held this large, hungry whale! Luckily our Humpback friend was heading in the direction of Victoria so we followed along with him (or her) for a while. As the sun set molten orange in the West we finally headed back in to port for the night. It had been a long day of sun, whales, Sea Lions, Seals, and wonderful chatty people from all over the world.