Captain’s Blog

Humpback Whale & Race Rocks Marine Ecological Reserve

May 18, 2017

This morning we departed the harbour and transited southeast towards Constance Bank on the lovely calm waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. After a ten minute scan of the flat calm waters in search of cetaceans (whales, dolphins, and porpoises), the MV Pacific Explorer transited deeper south in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Further south in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, as the vessel slowed down the blow of a humpback whale was observed hanging above the water. We transited to the blow and encountered a humpback whale that seemed to be actively foraging with longer dives and shorter surfacing patterns. The humpback whale then suddenly shifted from foraging into more social behaviours and was more surface active. It raised its longer pectoral flipper several times, as well as rolled at the surface a few times. After viewing the individual for a bit of time, we proceeded to Race Rocks Marine Ecological Reserve. It has the second oldest lighthouse on our coastline. Race Rocks is a year-round haulout for harbour seals and a winter haulout site for Steller sea lions and California sea lions. We spotted several bald eagles on the rocks and pigeon guillemots were twittering on the water. Additionally, passengers and crew had several opportunities to observe this alcid’s bright red feet as several individuals were swimming and flying in the main channel between Great Race and Helicopter Rock. An amazing morning on the water.

For our afternoon tour we departed the dock and proceeded into a south and westerly direction in the Strait of Juan de Fuca towards a humpback whale that was transiting west in the Strait. MV Pacific Explorer transited alongside the traveling humpback whale, which was cruising west with a purpose. The humpback whale then jolted into sudden a cartwheel. We departed the individual shortly after a few more surfacings and made our way to Race Rocks Marine Ecological Reserve. It has the second oldest lighthouse on our coastline. Race Rocks is a year-round haulout for harbour seals and a winter haulout site for Steller sea lions and California sea lions. Additionally, northern elephant seals utilize the rocks around Race Rock to molt. We spotted a single male sea otter in the kelp beds off the north side of helicopter rock and two pairs of mature bald eagles. We observed a wide variety of social behaviours at Race Rocks prior to departing back to Victoria. It was a beautiful afternoon on the water.

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