Victoria Whale Watching Report: Humpback Whales, Seals & Ollie the Sea Otter
July 4, 2019
This morning, our covered vessels headed south into Juan de Fuca Strait in search of orcas and humpback whales. The early summer humpback whale encounters have been amazing and today did not disappoint. Several humpback whales were encountered in the waters south of Race Rocks actively foraging for krill and small schooling fish in the nutrient-rich waters. We spent time with several humpback whales including Seabird and Trooper. The humpback whale sightings continue to be astounding. It is great to see the humpback whale population continue to increase since the first humpback whales returned to these waters in the late 1990s.
After our time with the humpback whales. we travelled to Race Rocks. Several harbour seals were hauled out at the low tide, basking in the early morning sun. A highlight of the tour was an Ollie sighting, floating in the bull kelp.
We also encountered a massive male elephant seal ashore on the boat ramp. It was another great morning on the Salish Sea.
Today we headed out onto the Strait of Juan de Fuca to look for creatures of the sea! We searched the rocky shoreline as we made our way west towards Race Rocks Lighthouse. As we approached the black and white striped tower, we spotted Harbour Seals resting on the islets, many of the new moms and their tiny pups born within the past two weeks. Being the most abundant marine mammal on the coastline of British Columbia, we have the pleasure of seeing the Harbour Seals on most of our trips.
We started to make our way west and south, but high winds and rough seas resulted in us having to change plans and search for whales in a different area. We decided to head east, with the waves and wind, and a little further south. We were excited to receive a radio call from one of our American whale watching friends who found a humpback in the calmer seas!
We made our way over to the reported location and started to see the misty blows from a new favourite humpback in our area named Mathematician! This humpback has been found several times in the past two weeks in local waters, doing short dives and foraging in circles.
All the humpbacks in the area have been doing short dives, leaving us to conclude that their food source must be fairly shallow in the water column. Mathematician continued to feed, fluke and exhale noisily for the duration of our visit. We stayed out a little longer than usual but it was well worth it to see one of nature’s most beautiful giants of the sea!
This evening we headed west to a place where we had previously seen animals earlier in our day, roughly 12 miles south of Victoria towards Port Angeles. There is a marker on the watermarked as PA buoy, this marks a spot where the water is more shallow.
In these locations, it is where nutrient upwellings are very common. Nutrient upwellings are when the particles from the bottom of the ocean are being churned to the top, keeping the food constant temperatures and plentiful for many animals.
In this case, it was quite a few humpbacks! We were lucky to watch a couple of humpback cruising along and eventually viewed what we know as lunge feeding. This is where the humpback thrusts its body, mouth open, near the surface of the water for food. At some points, we were even able to see the baleen in the humpbacks mouth!
On top of this we were able to identify the humpbacks we were watching as Orion (BCX1251), Trooper (MMY0144), and Pong (MMZ0041). We can identify the individual humpbacks just by looking at the bottom of their flukes while headed on longer dives. This is a great tool to keep track of the whales we have in the area as well as getting to know them as researchers.