Victoria Whale Watching Report: Humpback Whales & So Much More
August 3, 2019
This morning we headed straight south, following a call of a possible wildlife sighting near Port Angeles. As we crossed the glassy Juan de Fuca Strait we were able to see big billowy blows from quite far away. This indicated that we were approaching a couple of humpbacks. While we watched these animals we were able to identify one as Divot, a common humpback to our area. This whale is identifiable by a small ‘divot’ on the right side of the fluke. The other whale that was around was a new one to our area so we were able to take part in some research by sending in photos of the fluke to a project called Happy Whale. This group keeps track of all humpback fluke photos sent in to see where they come from, who is regularly returning, and who the new kids on the block are. Before heading back to Victoria, we headed to Race Rocks Ecological Reserve. Here we were able to view seals, sea lions, two big elephant seals, and our lush marine birdlife.
The sun was shining as we boarded the Pacific Explorer this afternoon with not a lick of wind in the air. The 38 passengers and 3 crew made their way out into the Juan De Fuca Strait. This body of water is a whale highway and is what separates Vancouver Island from Washington State.
We started off our trip at Race Rocks Ecological Reserve. This is home to 4 of the species of Pinnipeds that we see around Vancouver Island. These are Harbour Seals, Californian Sea Lions, Steller Sea Lions and Northern Elephant Seals. This day all four were present but the best sight of the day was the seemingly melting Northern Elephant Seal at the end of Great Race. These big animals are a true seal meaning they have fused hip bones and an inner ear. The fused hip bones make moving on land quite awkward, especially when at 6000 pounds like these giants are. The male Elephant Seals have about a 1-foot long nose that hangs off their face which they use it for communicating and competing for mates.
After Race Rocks, the search was on! We were bound and determined to find some whales. After some searching, we found two Humpback whales who were quite sleepy. We moved on. Ahead of us was Titan the Humpback whale. This whale showed us its dorsal fin quite a few times, as well as its blow hole. The naturalists on board this trip think that Titan is either very young or a male because of its small size. Humpback Whales very rarely travel in groups in our cold pacific waters, but rather individually or in duos where the food is good.
With the water like glass and the sun shining it was hard to make the choice to head back to the harbour but unfortunately the time was up for this trip!
It was a stunning evening on the water with the Strait like glass and clear skies. We started our tour by heading southeast past Trial Island Lighthouse. We just passed the famous Seabord Point Lighthouse when we first spotted the bushy blows of two humpbacks. As we approached, they continued to move fast to the east, getting pushed from the flood tide. With tails held high, we identified one as Stitch (MMX0167). Stitch has a square shape to the top of his or her left tail fluke, so we were able to ID it quickly using our ID guide.
We followed them as they travelled along the west side of San Juan Island. It was a picturesque sight with Lime Kiln State Park Lighthouse in the background. We eventually left the whales to continue travelling in the sunset and we continued to scan the horizon as we headed west.
We stopped in Rum Runner’s Cove at Chatham Island where the coastal wolf had been spotted earlier. In the seven years that this wolf has resided on Discovery and Chatham Islands, naturalist Corey has seen this wolf once this season. Naturalist Rachael has never sene this wolf and did not expect to.
BUT with the keen eye of Corey, WE SPOTTED THE WOLF! He was curled up on the top of a hill napping. He suddenly popped up his head and watched us watching him! It was a very exciting event for crew and guests alike!
It was a very memorable night on the Salish Sea!