Captain’s Blog

Victoria Whale Watching Report: Humpback Whales, Seals & More

May 11, 2019

Morning Tour

Today on the Orca Spirit, we started to head East through the Strait of Juan de Fuca with beautiful views of Mount Baker.

We geared Northbound along Haro Strait in search of wildlife. We soon started spotting eagles and other marine birds such as cormorants.

The highlight of the tour was shutting off engines and observing multiple harbour porpoises surround our boat while foraging. Harbor porpoise can emit a very broad frequency range (40 Hz to at least 150 kHz) of sounds. Some are within our hearing range (sonic) and others are above the frequency range that humans can hear (ultrasonic).

They use slow repeated echolocation clicks for navigation and rapid bursts of echolocation to focus in on prey or other items of interest. What a great day out on the water!

Afternoon Tour

We gathered at the dock on May 11th, eager to get going. After boarding the Orca Spirit, the original boat of the company we made our way into the inner harbour and much to everyone’s surprise the waves were quite large, splashing up over the boat, making for a bumpy ride! While unexpected, it made the experience all the more fun. As we rounded the east end of Vancouver Island and headed towards Chain Islands the waves died down.

While amongst the Chain Islands, we got to see a variety of life, rocks surrounded by bull kelp forests, Harbour Seals hauled out on the rocks, as well as cormorants! We continued north along Vancouver Island, passing islands including American Islands, San Juan, Spieden, and Stuart Islands. In the 1970s and 1980s, Spieden Island was used for big game hunting. There were many non-native species that were introduced on this island, including Mouflon Sheep from Corsica, Fallow Deer from Europe and Sika Deer from Asia. Some even say that there were once Giraffes, Kangaroos and Tigers that roamed the island, brought to the island to create a wild and exotic location!

Our next Island was Saturna Island, here we were back into Canadian waters and got to experience some extremely stinky Steller Sea Lions on a rock just east of Saturna. Saturna Island is a special place, it is a very common place to see Killer Whales from the shore (and the water); it is also the place that the first whale was ever caught for captivity. In 1964, off of East Point, (where we passed between Tumbo and Saturna) a young Killer Whale, later named Moby Doll, was harpooned and towed back to Vancouver to live the remainder of its life in captivity.

Finally! We got to the location our captain had planned all along, just north of Saturna and Tumbo Island. There had been reports of 2 Humpback Whales, we were lucky to have caught them! The two whales we got to spend some time with were Heather (BCY0160) and Raptor (BCY0660)! Both of these whales are regulars to our area in the summer-time and are likely the leaders of the whales that are on their way up for this season!

As we made our way back to the Harbour, it was again, a bumpy ride! Some brave souls, not afraid of having to wring out their soggy underpants once back on shore, stayed on the top deck to experience the splashes. Some stayed in the cabin, watching the waves crash up against the side of the boat and cheering!

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