Captain’s Blog

Humpback Whales, Bigg’s Killer Whales & Race Rocks

June 6, 2017

10 am Excursion

We departed the harbour and transited slightly southeast towards Constance Bank, scanning the waters for cetaceans (whales, dolphins, and porpoises). The MV Pacific Explorer shifted to a southern direction transiting across the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Off the waterfront of Port Angles on the Olympic Penisula, we encountered a foraging humpback whale. Additionally, we had an opportunity to observe a harbour seal manipulate and attempt to consume a skate with a Glaucous-winged Gull trying to obtain some scraps. Additionally, we saw Rhinoceros Auklets bobbing around the surface of the water. After some views of the humpback whale covering huge swaths of water foraging, we transited towards the southwest tip of Vancouver Island to observe the marine wildlife off 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 observed a couple northern elephant seals resting on helicopter rock and then noticed some male elephant northern seals battling each other next to the ramp on Great Race. Numerous Glaucous-winged Gulls, Pigeon Guillemots, and cormorants (double-crested and pelagic) were observed. A glorious morning on the waters of the Salish Sea.

3:30 pm Excursion

We departed the dock on the MV Orca Mist and proceeded west in the Strait of Juan de Fuca towards Sooke. Off the coast of East Sooke Park, near Donaldson Island, we encountered a group of five Bigg’s killer whales (mammal-hunters). The T2C’s group which contains an individual male killer whale that has scoliosis. The family was logging and socializing with each other. We observed several spy-hops from different individuals in the group. They proceeded through several bull kelp patches. Following this wonderful encounter with the top predator of the ocean, the MV Orca Mist transited towards 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 a single male sea otter in the bull kelp beds. He was busy breaking into a meal of mollusks using a rock situated on his chest. Additionally, a male northern elephant seal was observed off the ramp situated off of Great Race. Numerous Glaucous-winged Gulls, Pigeon Guillemots, and cormorants (double-crested and pelagic) were observed. A glorious afternoon on the waters of the Salish Sea.

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