Killer Whales, Humpback Whales, Seals & Sea Lions
July 28, 2018
It was yet another beautiful day in Victoria as we reach the middle of summer. We have been fortunate to be seeing all kinds of whales, porpoises, seals and sea lions, our sea otter and marine birds. Today was another one of those days where we got to travel to San Juan Island where Southern Resident killer whales were cruising along the west side of the island.
First we seen members of the J17 family tucked in close to the shoreline followed by two of our dearest members of the population- Slick (J-16) and her young daughter Scarlet (J-50). We are keeping a watchful eye on Scarlet as she seems to be very underweight from a lack of abundant food, much like the rest of the Southern Residents. Scarlet is always seen close to her Mom or to her older siblings Echo, Alki, and especially her big brother Mike.
We got to see researchers on the water collecting data on the whales and SoundWatch out on their boat conducting boater education about the whales. The more we can learn about the whales and the more we can teach others, the better job we can do at protecting and recovering the Southern Residents!
We cruised west this afternoon and despite the choppy seas and whitecaps we managed to catch the blow of a humpback whale! With huge lungs that shoot air out in one powerful blow, humpbacks send mist high above the surface. Now that we are approaching August, the humpbacks are starting to look much bigger than they did this spring. With 17 tons of fat to gain before they all head south for the winter, they need to do some serious munching down when they are up North!
We then made our way over to the charming tower that we call Race Rocks Lighthouse. This lighthouse has been warning sailors and boat Captains of the rocky dangers since December 26th of 1860. It’s black and white stripes make it visible when seen in front of the rising sun. It is the only black and white tower in the region, uniquely built from granite blocks. It’s wildlife both above and below the surface make it a hot spot for nature enthusiasts from around the world.
We were excited to see a big group of male Steller Sea Lions, looking relaxed after two months being away mating at the female rookeries. We also spotted our first California Sea Lion back from the “Hang Ten” state, chilling out on the stairwell. The “rock sausages” we call Harbour Seals calmly nursed new pups as they kept above the tide line and kept warm in the sun. Also lying in the sun at a rotund size was a giant Elephant Seal, shedding his old fur in the afternoon breeze. We love to see these huge seals establishing a colony at Race Rocks! Last but certainly not least, we found Ollie the Sea Otter napping in the kelp beds, looking as content as can be within his huge raft of seaweed. It was a fun afternoon on the Strait of Juan de Fuca!
You never know what you are going to see when you head out on the water, but something special awaited us this evening! We came across several humpbacks southwest of Victoria and we quickly noticed one was Split Fin, a male that has been visiting us each summer for years. His dorsal fin almost looks like a crown with its two spits. He was accompanied by another humpback who was particularly frisky! This baleen behemoth kept waving and smashing it’s tail on the surface, over and over and over again! Everyone on board was so excited and amazed by the size and how of the flukes. Humpbacks are known for their acrobatics, but they are not always this active. We got some great shots that you can check out on our Flickr page.
Before we lost too much light, we made our way to Race Rocks Lighthouse. We captured some shots of the enormous Steller Sea Lions as they enjoyed the gold and orange sunset that surrounded us. This area is home to 500-600 sea lions most of the year. We are just receiving the first few dozen males back from mating season. They love to growl, roar and battle each other most of the time, but they seem very relaxed and maybe tired after a long journey home. Everyone on board was thrilled at the amazing evening on the Salish Sea, especially when we got to spend time with a “Tail-Happy” Humpy!