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October 23, 2016 – Killer Whales & Humpback Whales

4 months ago

A Double-Dip Day!

We left the calm waters of the harbor and cruised across the Juan de Fuca Strait. We noticed big clouds of mist along a huge tide line full of bull kelp, eel grass and driftwood. A humpback whale was surfacing often amongst the kelp piles, potentially searching for food hiding in the protective algae. We got some great shots of the humpbacks unique dorsal fin and flukes before heading west with reports of orcas!

As we passed by Beacher Bay, naturalist Sarah spotted a pair of Bald Eagles on one of the islets! Even though we had a ways to go, we just had to stop to see these majestic raptors, predators of the sky! Then it was away again to meet up with the inbound orcas of J, K and L pods, our fish-eating resident orcas! As we began to spot the big, black dorsal fins, we could see that the whales were vastly spread out to the south, searching for salmon in the waters below. We spotted a mother and her calf who we soon identified as Princess Angeline and her 1 year old daughter Kiki. Like all orca babies, Kiki remains right by her mother’s side.

We also spotted Princess Angeline’s 9 month old grandson, Dipper. Sad news reached us along our trip as his mother Polaris is missing and Dipper does not appear to be doing well without his mother. Calves this young are still nursing, therefore, without his mom, Dipper likely won’t survive. The realities of the challenges that this endangered population became very real today, as the Chinook salmon runs have been at historical lows. Orcas need to eat 150-300 pounds of salmon per day and they prefer Chinook, therefore many of the whales appear to be malnourished. With Polaris needing the extra calories to feed her calf, a shortage of food likely resulted in her death. This is a sad reminder to all of us that if we want to see these animals into the future and share their beauty with our children and great grandchildren, we all need to do more to protect the Southern Resident Orcas and their habitat.

We really enjoyed spending time with Onyx (L-87) as he swam along beside us. Onyx is a mature male who belongs to L-pod, but actually travels with J-Pod, specifically with Granny, our 105 year old matriarch. We noticed that Onyx has a new marking on the right-hand side of his dorsal fin. We will be passing some pictures on to the Center for Whale Research for them to document. As we made our way back to Victoria, we seen many humpbacks surfacing in the straight, a lovely view as we made our way home.

Our trip was both wonderful and sad at the same time. We hope this experience has inspired our guests to take the message of conservation home. As requested, we have provided some websites below for guests to check out and get involved.

Center for Whale Research: www.whaleresearch.com
Whale Museum: www.whalemuseum.org (Adopt an orca)
Pacific Salmon Foundation: https://www.psf.ca/
Marine Education and Research Society: http://www.mersociety.org/researchhumpbacks.htm (Adopt a humpback)
Orca Network: http://www.orcanetwork.org/Main/

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