Captain’s Blog

Victoria Whale Watching Report: So Many Humpback Whales!

July 3, 2019

MORNING TOUR

At Orca Spirit we like to Wednesdays hump(back) days! Mornings like today give meaning to this saying.

Less than 20 minutes in and our trip started out with a whale named Scratchy (MMY0079) just outside of the harbour! Scratchy’s name comes from having some rake marks on his fluke that make him stand out from many of our other whales. Rake marks are basically scratch marks from Killer Whale teeth, they scratch the grey surface away and leave a white scar.

We decided to give Race Rocks Lighthouse a peak this morning as well because we were experiencing the lowest tide of the year in Victoria today! Low tide provides the opportunity to see some of the other critters the Salish Sea has to offer.

There are 4 types of pinnipeds that regular Race Rocks Ecological Reserve, this includes Harbour Seals, Elephant Seals, Steller Sea Lions and, Californian Sea Lions. While at Race Rocks we observed a huge amount of Harbour Seals hauled out on the rocks resting. Harbour Seals have a hard time moving on land because they have fused hip bones, so they either galumph their way around or depend on the tide to lift them up onto the rocks and then pick them up. These guys are also one of the Bigg’s Killer Whales favourite snack; because of this, we call them Orca-d’oeurvres or fuzzy rock sausages.

On our way back we ended up in the middle of Humpback Soup! There were at least 10 whales in this one area alone! Here is the countdown of the whales we saw:

1. Seabird – born in 2017: This whale has a scar on the side of its fluke, likely from a boat.
2. MMZ0041: We are trying to get this whale named Pong because of its white fluke with a black line and white dot like the video game.
3. Valiant – Born in 2017: This whale is missing part of its left fluke and was likely munched on by a Bigg’s Killer Whale.
4. Split Fluke: This is Valiants momma, she has a chunk taken out of her left fluke.
5. Divot: This whale has a little divot out of the leading edge of its right fluke.
6. Pantera: This whale has a scar from an old tag site below its dorsal fin.
7. Big Momma: She has at least 7 calves and was likely the pioneer behind Humpback whales returning to Vancouver Island.
8. Ocean: This whale has a series of scars down its back from what looks like a prop of a boat.
9. Ghost
10. MMX0002

Seeing this many whales in one trip is a rarity but very exciting for both guests and crew!

 

AFTERNOON TOUR

Today was a great day for wildlife viewing!

Right as we left Victoria we came across a Humpback Whale. We spent a bit of time with this whale, but because there were so many other boats around we decided to continue West to find some more wildlife.

We stopped at Race Rocks, which is has been an ecological reserve since 1980. The strong currents here result in extremely rich intertidal and subtidal communities. We were able to see a Bald Eagle perched on one of the rocks as well as a plethora of Harbour Seals. This time of year is their pupping season so there were loads of adorable seal pups hauled out on the rocks.

We were also lucky enough to spot Ollie the Sea Otter in the kelp, the only one of his kind in Southern Vancouver Island! The lighthouse here is the second oldest in the Canadian Pacific, built-in 1860.

After passing through Race Rocks, we continued West until we came across several more Humpback Whales! We were able to identify two of these whales as “Divot” (BCX01057) and “Stitch” (MMX0167). Each of these whales has unique features on the underside of their flukes, which allow us to identify individuals.

There were many more Humpback Whales in the area, but these ones allowed us to get great photos to look for them in our ID book. Everywhere we looked around our boat today we were able to see blows and flukes, which was an incredible experience. We could even hear them breathe when we had our engine turned off.

We spent quite a bit of time with these whales and then made our way back to Victoria. What a wonderful trip!

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