Captain’s Blog

September 24, 2016 – Transient Orcas

September 24, 2016

Fall has set in on the west coast, a time when calm waters prevail and whales abound! We were so fortunate to have transient killer whales so close to the city today! We only had to venture towards the Trial Island Lighthouse, where we met up with a large family of mammal-hunting orcas. The family group has about 6 members, including 2 young calves. One is so small, it still has its black and orange colouration. Transient orcas are also known as Bigg’s killer whales, named after the late Dr. Michael Bigg- the godfather of orca research.

These orcas like to hunt for harbor seals in this area, scoping out the rocky islets and dense kelp beds near shorelines. Orcas eat 150 to 300 pounds of food a day as adults, so they need to spend much of their day foraging. When they are not looking for a tasty meal, they love to socialize and play with each other. We caught up with some of our spotted harbor seals around the Chain Islands and Trial Island Lighthouse. It was a morning full of wonder and excitement that no one aboard is soon to forget.

It was an afternoon of drama in nature today, as we cruised a short distance west of our Capital City. The Royal couple can’t have all the attention, so we focused on nature’s royalty- killer whales!! Our black and white friends did not disappoint (they never do), as we watched them successfully hunt down seals along the shoreline of Vancouver Island. It was amazing to see how close the orcas get, and how shallow they will go to search the Bull Kelp beds for seals hiding in the fronds and stipes of this giant algae.

As the whales rounded the corner of Pedder Bay, we had to wonder if it was visiting day at the William Head Institute, a minimum security male prison in the area, because the orcas were paying a visit! As we watched the whales thrash around the kelp, twisting and turning, we knew they must have been successful. We got some pictures of the transient orcas swimming in tight formation, one whale carrying lunch in its mouth!

As we were so close to the 156 year old lighthouse, known as Race Rocks, we could not miss out on the opportunity to go see the California and Steller Sea Lions that call the islets home. Hundreds of sea lions and dozens of harbor seals were at the lighthouse, barking, roaring and wrestling for space. Even though they tend to smelly bad, really bad, we still love that they share a home with us in the Salish Sea!

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