Victoria Whale Watching Report: Killer Whales, Humpbacks & More
July 27, 2019
This morning we headed straight out of the harbour towards Port Angeles, Washington. About halfway across the Strait of Juan de Fuca, we spotted blows straight ahead. With big billowy blows, we were excited to see humpback.
As we approached slowly to the humpback we were surprised by some Bigg’s killer whales that popped up on the port side of the vessel!
We were the first on the scene with the T46 group. In this group of Biggs orca, there is T46 with five daughters, one of which has a daughter as well and a new baby boy. We have many types of killer whales all over the world, 13 to be exact and they are all very different. Each type has distinct pod sizes, diet, appearance, and regions in which they reside.
Around Vancouver Island, we can see two main types. The Southern Resident orcas are eating mainly chinook salmon, reside in 3 large pods, and have distinct open saddle patches. The Bigg’s orca eat mammals, reside in smaller pods, have closed saddle patches and range from southern California to northern Alaska. We identify individuals by looking at their saddle patch and dorsal fin size, shape, scars.
The T46 group is easy to identify, and quite special, considering the baby boy has a skin condition called Leucism. This condition gives the orca a ghostly look with his white complexion.
We were able to get some great views of this group before heading to Race Rocks to check out some sea lions and seals.
Today was a fantastic day to be on the water. The conditions were in our favour, the sun was shining and there was very minimal wind. There had been reports of whales in the Juan De Fuca Strait, the body of water that separates Vancouver Island and Washington State. This body of water is also known as the Salish Sea to those in the area as it pays homage to the Coast Salish First Nations people whos area this was traditional.
We rounded to southern most part of Vancouver Island in hopes to find some Transient or Biggs Killer Whales. These whales are the mammal-eating killer whales or the area. The family of Killer Whales we found are known as the T109As and travelling with them was a lone male known as T097. T097 was born in 1980 and usually travels with T093, another lone male. T109As family is made up of 8 whales with mom being born in 1990 and the newest two of the family were born in 2018.
After spending time with these whales along the shore line, we headed a bit farther out to find some humpback whales! We found two of these! These were Valiant the Humpback who had a bit of a rough start in life, mammal-eating killer whales tried to make a snack out of him, and Zepellin the Humpback Whale as well. These guys were sleepy, but we hung around with them for a little while before heading to Race Rocks.
Race Rocks Ecological Reserve is home to many different species of Seals and Sea Lions! Today we saw Harbour Seals, Steller Sea Lions and Californian Sea Lions. They were all basking in the sun, warming up their blubber.
We got back into the harbour that evening with cameras full of the many different animals of the Pacific Northwest.
This evening’s tour took us along the coast of Vancouver Island as we travelled west of the Capital City. We were searching for signs of any of the four large species of whales that can be in our area, including Orcas, Humpbacks, Gray Whales and Minke Whales. Because whales are constantly transmitting in an out of the area in search of food, every tour is a new adventure taking us to different areas and we are always seeing different individual whales!
After we passed Race Rocks Lighthouse, the winds and tide were creating wavy conditions, but we soon received a report from another whale watching vessel that a humpback had been found! We only had to cruise through the swells for a few minutes before we found the humpback swimming east towards calmer waters. Naturalist Corey was able to ID the whale from her tail flukes- it was Tulip! Tulip has been spotted several times in the past couple of weeks and we were able to determine she is indeed a female when she breached last week!
Tulip surfaced many times and we got to see her tail high above the water several times before we left to check out Race Rocks Lighthouse in the sunset. The lighthouse is the second oldest on the Canadian Pacific and it stands above dozens of Harbour Seals and growling Steller Sea Lions. One Steller Sea Lion was sporting a pretty nasty looking bite mark, maybe from an orca or a shark. We also got to see several little Harbour Seal pups tucked up against their Moms, nursing in the golden light.
After Race Rocks Lighthouse, we pulled some Bull Kelp onto the boat so that guests could see the fastest growing organism in the world! Bull Kelp forms beautiful and productive forests that support many species of fish, invertebrates and marine mammals. Some guests even ventured to taste the Bull Kelp as it is edible and eaten by locals. We ended the trip with a tour of the inner harbour of Victoria where we admired the beautiful historical buildings and lights of the city.