Southern Resident Orcas & Minke Whale
June 27, 2018
Wednesday greeted the crew and guests with sunshine, clear skies, and calm waters. The Pacific Explorer travelled west out of Victoria towards the Race Rocks ecological reserve. There we were greeted by Ollie our resident sea otter amidst the vast bull kelp beds. He is an entertaining fellow to watch and he certainly seems to enjoy having the company. As we continued a little further out, our guests had the thrill of encountering one of our Southern Resident orca pods! After using some photo identification methods, the naturalists determined that we were observing J-pod.
One of the most imposing dorsal fins among our resident pods belongs to J-26, Mike. We watched as he swam east along the Victoria coastline and was joined by other female and juvenile members of his pod. Viewing our resident orca pods back in the Salish Sea is extremely exciting, as this means the area is hopefully supplying them with their top food choice, the Chinook Salmon. Thank you for enjoying a great day on the water with us!
For our afternoon tours we headed out into Haro Strait aboard the Pacific Explorer with the hope of seeing the Southern Resident killer whales again. We traveled past Trail Island and Discovery Island, always keeping a sharp eye out for wildlife as it often pops up when we least expect it to. As we approached San Juan Island we began to see stationary boats in the distance, which is always a good indication that there might be wildlife up ahead.
As we joined the other boats we were greeted by two massive black dorsal fins erupting from the water side by side as two adult male orcas surfaced to breathe. We quickly identified the males as Blackberry (J-27) and Mike (J-26). Blackberry and Mike were both born in 1991 and are often seen hanging out with one another within the pod. Now both mature adults, their large dorsal fins can be seen from a great distance and serve as a focal point for spotting and identifying the pod. We turned off the boat’s engine to enjoy the company of the whales. As we floated alongside the whales we were delighted to have a very curious Blackberry cruise by and say hello before re-joining his pod mates.
As we turned back towards Victoria we spotted a small column of water vapor blowing up off the surface. Blows like this are often caused by baleen whales coming to the surface to breathe. We headed towards the blow and spotted a minke whale cruising through the water. The minke whale surfaced a few more times before disappearing down into the water for a deep dive. We continued back to Victoria harbor feeling very fortunate to encounter two species of whales in one afternoon.