One of those 'we are so lucky to be in such a beautiful city' type of days! http://t.co/pmkVhOHZ44
July 14, 2011
It was a dreary looking morning in Victoria, but not a dreary whale watching trip! The fog bank hid most of the natural scenery of the area, but the fog can't hide the whales! We skimmed over water smooth as glass east towards San Juan Island. We soon encountered a group of transient orcas. Transient orcas eat marine mammals such as harbour seals, sea lions, porpoises, dolphins, and other whales. They travel in small groups made up of one matriline family. Soon a second group of transients met up with the first group. In total we were watching 9 whales. We spotted one adult male, with his 6 foot high dorsal fin cutting the surface of the water. We also saw one calf and 7 other whales, which could be a mix of females and juvenile males. The whales were cooperatively hunting what we believe was a porpoise. It was exciting as the whales swiftly swam in different directions, cutting sharply as they turned. We also saw spy-hops, where the whales lift their head above the surface to have a look at the above sea surroundings. All on board were impressed by the many tail-lobs, letting us get a look at both sides of their tail flukes. Their hard work and impeccable skill paid off...a guest caught a picture of one of the whales spy-hopping with a chunk of flesh hanging out of its mouth! A rare picture indeed! On our way home, we stopped at Trial Island to check out all the basking harbour seals along the water’s edge. An even bigger treat were the not one, not two, but FOUR bald eagles!! We saw two adults and two juveniles perched on posts and rocks right on the island. It was a fantastic morning indeed, full of awesome wildlife and great stories to share with friends and family of our guests when they returned home!
This afternoon we sailed out once again into the fog, quietly chatting as blankets of white hid everything around us. The strange surroundings lent the trip a bit of eerie added excitement, with everyone peering around for the first sight of land, whales, or anything. It was short lived however, we soon emerged from the misty bank into clearer waters where the same transient Orcas from the morning trip had decided to spend the afternoon. Although we were unable to identify any clear landmarks, we were informed by the captain that our location was somewhere between Trial Island, Hein Bank and Middle Bank in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The only thing that resembled a landmark was a lonely yellow ODAS, or "Ocean Data Acquisition System", buoy. They measure data regarding sea conditions and transmit them back to land.
The whales were having a rather interesting afternoon themselves. We watched as they did some slow cruising and then switched to playing. There were tail slaps and a certain younger member of the group could be spotted bobbing and rolling around, proving that young whales, like young humans, can't help themselves and have to play. These transients were identified as the T-10's, T-36's, and T-99's. The T-10's are comprised of T10, a mother to T10B (the big male) and a relative of the younger T10C. The T-36's are the females T36, T36B, and a 7 year old youngster (unknown gender) called T36C. The T-99's, were also there and were comprised of either all females or females and juvenile males.
It was a rather large group for transients to be traveling in, but perhaps they were just meeting up for an afternoon together before breaking apart in their smaller family groups. We drifted for some time with the magnificent creatures, engines off, listening to the sound of their breathing in the otherwise silent air. After a while they rolled into a bit of action, catching themselves an afternoon snack and just before we were going to turn around and head for home, they delighted everyone with several more tail slaps and an absolutely amazing triple spyhop! The three whales poked up from the water one right after the other and sank down the same way. It was a first for all guests on board, even some of our naturalists.
We thanked the whales for this grand finale and cruised back into the fog. We passed by a misty Trial Island on our way back to see muted seagulls waiting for clearer skies on the rocks below the red lighthouse. Then it was more fog and safe back in Victoria Harbour. A unique day to be sure.