Humpback Whale & Transient Orcas
August 28, 2018
Whenever we get to see whales out on the water we count ourselves very lucky. Getting to spend time with these animals in their natural habitat is arguably one of the most spectacular experiences to have on the water. On the days that we get to see two different species of whale in one trip we truly count as spectacular. This morning was one of those extremely lucky days.
We departed the inner harbor and headed towards Constance Bank – an area where we often encounter humpback whales and porpoises – in search of wildlife. It was not long until we saw the large blow of a humpback whale as it came to the surface to breathe. The whale lingered at the surface for several breathes before descending for a deep dive, showing us its’ large tail fluke before it disappeared under the water once more.
The captain’s radio buzzed with news of Transient (marine mammal hunting) orca out west – some distance from us. Luckily for us the Catalina Adventure is a very fast boat and we sped off in search of the orca. The pod of orca consisted of four members: a large male, two females and a juvenile. We travelled alongside the family as long as we were able to before turning back towards Victoria harbor.
“As soon as we untie our boat from the dock, we are officially in whale country.” This is something I as a naturalist often tell guests when they inquire about when and where we will start seeing wildlife. The animals that we are seeking are wild, with a mind of their own, and often pop up where we least expect them. This season alone we have had Transient orca enter Victoria harbor on more than one occasion, which is incredibly rare. This afternoon was one of those trips where the whales decide to surprise you. I had just finished giving my safety briefing as we left the mouth of the harbor when we started to see the tall black fins of Transient orca. There were at least three pods of Transients socializing with one another right off the shore along Dallas Road. A female spy hopped right off the bow of our boat and lingered near the surface, blowing bubbles and vocalizing at the surface through her blowhole. We followed the whales until Trail Island before turning towards Race Rocks in hopes of seeing what is on the dinner menu for these whales – seals and sea lions.
On our way to Race Rocks we stopped to admire a large humpback whale who gave us a spectacular show with its’ massive tail fluke before diving deep underneath the water. When we arrived at Race Rocks the local population of California and Steller sea lions were all barking and growling loudly at one another in an attempt to assert dominance to win the best sun tanning spot on the rocks. Curled up in the beds of bull kelp our resident sea otter – Ollie – tried to nap in spite of the noisy sea lions.
Although the wildlife we seek can sometimes be elusive, there are days like today that leave both guests and naturalists in awe. The Strait of Juan de Fuca boasts an impressive array of marine life and today we were lucky enough to see many of the marine mammals that call these waters home.