Captain’s Blog

Southern Resident Orcas and Humpback Whales

July 11, 2015

We left the Victoria Harbour with Killer Whales reported on the west side of San Juan Island. We traveled for 45 minutes through the still waters of the Salish Sea, passing stunning islands with lighthouses atop their highest corner, all the while keeping our eyes on the horizon for a pod of black and white kings of the sea. We soon found ourselves enjoying the presence of K-Pod, our smallest pod of resident Killer Whales, numbering 19 individuals. We watched as they moved up and down the island’s shoreline hunting their favourite prey, the Chinook (King) Salmon. We saw K26, Lobo, as he fed outside the group to ensure more food for himself, as he is a quickly maturing male. We witnessed him bring his large tail fluke out of the water and slap it on the surface many times. We then spent our time with the whales sitting still in the water, while small family groups moved passed us as they foraged. We took the time on the return trip to stop by the Chain Islands to see Harbour Seals basking in the sun, Cormorants drying their wings in the wind and Pigeon Guillemots paddle their bright red feet through the Bull Kelp beds. Amazing way to start any day!!

Both the afternoon and evening tour was action packed with migratory Humpbacks feeding just a few miles south of the Victoria Harbour, in the middle of the Strait of Juan De Fuca. We watched several different groups of Humpbacks, as they engulfed a massive amount of food-filled water, then filtered it through their baleen plates. We witnessed a group of three mature whales surface in five-second intervals of one another several times before we saw their signature of a deep dive, the tail flukes. We also saw a large female named Heather and her young calf. Heather seemed very focused on feeding while her calf seems oblivious to this, and instead practiced rolling, tail slapping and cartwheeling in the calm dark waters. Later in the day, we saw what appeared to be Heather teaching her calf, by example, how to breach. We watched them breech one after the other almost a dozen times, as a very rare and special moment for all aboard. We rounded out our trip with a tour through Race Rocks, a Marine Protect Area, where we saw Harbour Seals, Stellar Sea Lions and Elephant Seals making this fast moving water filled with fast-growing Bull Kelp their home. An amazing day spent on the water with some of the worlds most breathtaking gentle giants.

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