Captain’s Blog

Baleen Giants & Furry Friends

August 4, 2018

It was a sunny morning in Victoria, but the quick rise in temperature tends to create fog on the water this time of year. But the weather never deters our mission to see whales and other wildlife! It was a good thing we headed out because we found humpbacks surfacing out in the sun and away from the mist! A mother and her calf were dining on the clouds of krill that have been seen in our waters recently. It was great to be able to see the whales surface often, an indication that the food they are eating can be found fairly shallow within the water column. With abundant food supply, we are seeing more and more humpbacks in our area each year. It is amazing to see what can happen when we protect a species and allow it to thrive and grow. We are so fortunate that whaling was stopped before we lost these magnificent gentle giants to extinction.

We also visited Race Rocks Lighthouse where fog had settled in, but we were still able to visit the Steller sea lions, rotund Harbour seals and a stunning Bald Eagle on the rocky islets. This lighthouse was first operational on December 26, 1860. Just 3 days earlier, a vessel named the Nanette was swept by strong tides onto the rocky ledges of Race Rocks and began to take on water. The vessel was destroyed, but much of the cargo and all lives on board were saved by workmen at the lighthouse. This area has a long history with sailors, but the 24.4 meter tower guides vessels safely past her shores. We had a fine morning of west coast wildlife and history on the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

This afternoon turned out to be a very exciting and eventful day on the waters of the Salish Sea! We aimed southwest to look for whales and other wildlife, hoping to find the humpbacks we seen in the morning or any new visitors to the area. We were excited to see the massive flukes of a humpback whale as it dove into the depths of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Humpbacks can have tails that are 18 feet or about 6m across, making a loud smack when they hit the water.

We decided to head to rAce Rocks Lighthouse where we could see the black and white granite tower standing out in the fog. This lighthouse was made from granite that came from Scotland and topped with sandstone from local Gabriola Island. Here we were treated to the sights, sounds and smells (though the smell is not a treat!) of Steller sea lions, California sea lions and the ever abundant Harbour Seals. We are excited to have the sea lions back from their mating grounds as they disappear for almost two months in June and July.

On our way back towards Victoria, we stopped for one last visit with the humpback and we are sure glad we returned as we were witness to breaching, pectoral fin slapping and flukes galore! Humpbacks have pectoral fins that stretch 15 feet long, and they look very powerful when they slap them on the surface! We were able to snap some great photos that you can download on our Flickr page. We returned to Victoria giddy from having the privilege to see such an intelligent, beautiful and giant creature of the sea!

Another gorgeous evening on the Strait of Juan de Fuca made for a great setting for a whale watching adventure. We did not travel far when we saw the huge plumes of mist coming from the giant nostrils of a humpback whale! In fact, the more we looked around us, the more whales we seen coming to the surface in all directions. One humpback we visited showed the scars from a past encounter with mammal-hunting killer whales! The rake marks were visible on the tips of the humpback’s tail flukes. We even got to see the huge bumps on the humpback’s head which are called tubercles and characteristic only to their species.

Our vessel decided to check out Race Rocks Lighthouse before the sun sunk below the hills of Vancouver Island. The skies were beautiful with golden light and it made for some wonderful sunset photos. The Steller sea lions were enjoying the evening light as they basked on the rocks and the Harbour seals continued to nurse their new pups. We had wonderful conversations with very interested guests which made for a most memorable tour. A thank you to everyone for your curiosity and excitement to learn more. When we care about the environment around us, we are inspired to protect it!

View more incredible tour photos here.

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