Captain’s Blog

Killer Whales, Humpback Whales, Seals and Sea Lions

September 1, 2018

It was another glorious morning on the Strait of Juan de Fuca as we cruised out of the harbour, past Trial Island Lighthouse, the Victoria Golf Course and Discovery and Chatham Islands. We made our way north into Haro Strait where we ended up just past Battleship Island when we started to see the tall, black fins of killer whales!

A quick glance around and it became apparent that we were visiting two different Bigg’s (transient) killer whale families. Because these orcas hunt seals, sea lions and porpoises, they live in small groups called matrilineal. But they often come together to socialize, mate and hunt together. A tiny fin surfaced beside Mom and everyone on board swooned.

We got a real close-up of one family as they surprised everyone when they popped up behind an island we were passing while watching the other family on the opposite side of the boat! The little calf in this group was adorable! They look so small, yet this one was likely over 600 pounds!

Once we left the killer whales, we spotted their favourite meal at Battleship Island and through the Chain Islands- Harbour Seals! They are the most abundant marine mammal along our coastline and they feed our growing Bigg’s killer whales. Nature always carries a fine balance between predator and prey, but they are both very important to each other. They looked back at us or slept on the rocks, content to be safe on land. Another great morning was in the books!

We left the harbour curious to see what we might find southwest of the city as we knew the Bigg’s killer whales we seen in the morning had moved away from our area. With the abundance of wildlife that call the Salish Sea home, there is always a good chance someone else is out there!

We didn’t have to go far- only 9 nautical miles- when we were elated to find L-pod orcas at Race Rocks Lighthouse! With Chinook salmon runs at extreme lows, we have seen lots of J-pod this summer, but we haven’t had many days with L or K pods! We were so excited to see the familiar fins of the L-12 matriline- Mega, Matia, Calypso and Windsong were all identified within a couple surfacings. Another big, straight fin popped up with the group- it was Mystery who travels with the L-12 family because he does not have any other immediate family. You can see he has been adopted, being welcomed with open flippers!

After spending time with the greatly missed Southern Residents, we went to check out Race Rocks Lighthouse where we spotted all kinds of furry creatures. Be sure to check out the photos from this trip because we were able to get shots of three different species in one picture- Steller sea lions, a Harbour Seal and Ollie the Sea Otter! Below the lighthouse, we also enjoyed the sights and sounds, but maybe not smells, of California sea lions mixed in with the bigger Steller sea lions. One Steller male had quite the runny nose, and appeared to be solving the nasty drip with his tongue! Yuck!

The fun was not over as we soon found a humpback just beside the lighthouse islets! It was doing some zig-zagging as it appeared to be diving for big gulps of food. Humpbacks consume 1 t o3 tons of food a day right now, so they need to work hard at eating! We will get them here for a few more months before they begin their long journey south to either Mexico, Hawaii or Costa Rica. It was an event filled afternoon that will be in all our memories for a very long time.

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