Captain’s Blog

July 23, 2017 – Southern Resident Orcas

July 23, 2017

This morning we celebrated the return of the southern resident orcas to the Salish Sea. On our morning trip, members of J-pod were encountered traveling east across the Victoria waterfront. It was a great trip as we watched a large group of orcas swim and dive in near unison with the city of Victoria as a backdrop! We had a great encounter with Blackberry (J27) as he made his way past Trial Island. We had a great wildlife encounter at the Chain Islets where we observed lots of resting harbour seals enjoying the sun at low tide! After, we circumnavigated Chatham and Discovery Island where we had one more brief glimpse of J-pod before we made our way back to Victoria.

By the afternoon, the resident orcas had made their way to San Juan Island. We watched members of J-pod make their way south from Hannah Heights. A highlight of the tour was a thrilling encounter with Blackberry! Guests and crew alike were awestruck by some amazing porpoising behaviour from some orcas inshore. It was another fantastic day on the Salish sea!

It was a super bright and sunny day to start off our whale watching tour. We scurried out west where we had reports that orcas were spotted and traveling east! We started to see the iconic black dorsal fins of southern resident killer whales! After getting some good looks at their unique dorsal fins and saddlepatches, we discovered that we had a mix of both L-Pod and J-Pod. Blackberry, a 26 year old male from J-Pod gave them away as he traveled off our port side.

Southern resident orcas are Endangered, with only 78 whales in the population. They feed primarily on Chinook salmon, a dwindling fish species on the Pacific Northwest coast. The 3 resident pods love to spend time together, so it was a good day to see J and L-pods mix it up with each other. We watched as they traveled past Victoria and headed across Beaumont shoals towards San Juan Island.

As we passed by Chain Islands, we decided to have a gander at all the harbour seals that littered the rocky shores of the islands. These seals are safe from the fish-eating residents, but they better stay on dry land when the mammal-hunting transients are around!

We had one last look at the residents again before heading back to dock. We could not ask for a better morning with sun, whales, seals, and photos to last a lifetime!

Another sunny Saturday with the promise of an exciting adventure on the water awaited our guests. We set course for San Juan Island, Washington where we knew the southern resident killer whales headed earlier today. We cruised south along the western shoreline of the island where J and L pods were searching for Chinook salmon.

Orcas can spread out from each other over ten miles (16km), and still be in vocal contact with each other. If someone finds a school of fish, they can vocalize to tell everyone else where they are and what they have found. Blackberry was closest to us and he is a sight to see! He celebrates his 26th birthday this year, and is a very important part of the breeding population within the community!

Blackberry often travels close to his sister Tsuchi and his younger brother Mako. Today they were not side-by-side, but we could see whales inshore of Blackberry, so they were likely taking the task of finding fish in a different area.

With his distinct saddlepatch, we snapped some great pictures of J-Pod’s handsome guy. We feel so fortunate to see this family in local waters, and are thankful for the opportunity to share his story with our guests!

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