Captain’s Blog

Victoria Whale Watching Report: Humpback Whales, Race Rocks Ecological Reserve & More

July 22, 2019

MORNING TOUR

This morning we entered into the Juan De Fuca Strait, heading West.

After just a short time of travelling, we spotted a Humpback Whale! After this whale showed us its fluke, we were able to identify the individual as “Scratchy”. The underside of a humpback’s tail is entirely unique, like a fingerprint! They vary with amounts of white pigmentation and have markings on them as well. We spent a bit of time with this whale, before leaving it to see what else we could find.

We headed out slightly further before coming across another Humpback Whale! Right as we got there we saw its pectoral fin come out of the water. These fins are about 1/3 of the size of their body, which at full size is around 50 feet. They are also covered in bumps called tubercles, which contain sensory hairs. These tubercles can also be seen on their mouths, which we saw a couple of times as well! This whale was identified as “Tulip”. We spent quite a bit of time with Tulip since this was a very active humpback. We saw several flukes, but dive times were very short. After a while, we decided to leave this whale and check out Race Rocks to see what wildlife was around there.

Race Rocks has been an ecological reserve since 1980 because of the rich communities of subtidal and intertidal life here. We saw Harbour Seals hauled out on the rocks, as well as several Steller Sea Lions and a couple of California Sea Lions as well. Right under all these animals was Ollie the Sea Otter hanging out in the kelp. This otter is the only one of his kind in Southern Vancouver Island, as they were hunted to extinction out here. He was part of a breeding program to re-introduce them to our area.

The lighthouse here is the second oldest in the Canadian Pacific, built in 1860. It is no longer manned but there is a woman who lives here to act as a Guardian for the wildlife.

It was, unfortunately, time to head back to Victoria, but we were greeted with a beautiful sunny afternoon!

 

AFTERNOON TOUR

This afternoon we left Victoria, heading West into the Juan De Fuca Strait.

After a while of travelling, we came across two Humpback Whales! Unfortunately, it was too choppy to stick around these whales, so we turned around towards Race Rocks to see what we could find in calmer waters.

Once in Race Rocks, a few of us were able to dry off a bit after the waves had us soaked on the upper deck! This area is an ecological reserve because of the rich communities of intertidal and subtidal life here. Here we were able to see Harbour Seals, as well as several Steller Sea Lions hauled out on the rocks! We also spotted Ollie the Sea Otter rolling around amongst the kelp. He also went on several dives, potentially looking for Sea Urchins to snack on. He is one of the few animals known to use tools! He uses rocks to crack open the shelled exterior of the invertebrates he eats.

The lighthouse here was built in 1860 and is the second oldest in the Canadian Pacific. It is no longer manned but there is a woman who lives here in order to act as a Guardian for the wildlife. The black striping on this lighthouse is so that boats are able to see it in the fog, which is sometimes completely covering this area.

On the way back into the harbour we were able to meet up with some other boats that were with another Humpback Whale! We saw it show its fluke and were able to identify this whale as “Scratchy”. This whale is fairly easy to identify because it is covered in scratches and has been seen fairly often lately. It is likely this whale was attacked by a pod of Killer Whales when it was a calf! We spent a bit of time here, watching this whale come up for several breathing cycles.

Unfortunately, we had to head back to Victoria, after quite the adventurous afternoon!

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