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Celebrating Canada’s 150th Birthday With Whales

July 1, 2017

Happy Canada Day! There’s no better way to celebrate our country’s 150th birthday than on the water with our favourite wildlife! And it would not be a west coast summer without a few windy days! We rode the lumpy seas over to the US, traveling along the west side of San Juan Island. This is not the area we usually come across humpbacks, but they were there today! At first we only saw one, but then a double blow revealed we had two humpbacks!

Historically we never used to see humpbacks in the middle of our season, they have always been fall visitors. However, in the last 2-3 seasons, we are seeing more and more humpbacks. They are just as common now to see as orcas! More whales, more to see, more to be amazed by!

One of the coolest things to see is the whale’s body below the surface. As we travelled parallel to the whales, we could see a dark area just under the water, the whales were not diving deep, but relaxing near the surface. We could also see bright white below the waves, which was the huge pectoral fins of the humpback. They have the largest pectoral fins of any whale, stretching out 15 feet!

A great morning on the water lead guests onto dry land for the afternoon of celebrations and evening fireworks!

It was a windy Canada Day afternoon, but the sun was shining and the humpback whales were close by! We set course just east of Victoria and spotted the bushy blow of a huge humpback! Female humpbacks grow larger than males and reach the same length as our boat- 52 feet or 17 meters!

Our new friend showed us its wide tail as it dove down on longer dives. Despite the wavy conditions, it was easy to see the whale’s white pectoral fins below the surface. They can use these super long “arms” to propel themselves threw the air like corkscrew. Humpbacks are in fact known to be the most acrobatic whale species!

We also enjoyed the beautiful scenery of Trial Island Lighthouse and the Olympic Mountain range. One thing Victoria is not lacking is stunning scenery and amazing wildlife! After an afternoon of getting our sea legs and watching the largest species of cetacean in the area, we headed back to Victoria to enjoy the Canada Day celebrations!

The glow of the summer sun was stunning on the water this evening.  The beauty of the environment was matched by the beauty of the group of mammal-hunting orcas that we found darting between the Gulf and San Juan Islands.  The transient family known as the T049A’s have been familiar faces in these parts in the past couple of weeks.  They must be finding lots of food in the area.  As there are over 40,000 harbour seals now living in the Salish Sea- the buffet table for transient orcas has been set!

The family consists of the mother who was born in 1986.  She has 16 and a 6 year old sons, and a 3 year old calf, who we have not yet learned if it is a girl or a boy.  We need to see that belly!  Male and female orcas look the the same as youngsters, it is only when the males hit puberty that they start to change in appearance.  Their dorsal fin begins to “sprout”, reaching heights over 6 feet tall.

The orcas swam around the islands in silence as they listened for the tell tale sounds or sights of a late supper.  Once they catch a seal, they will share the meal as a family.  Everyone gets fed and there is no fighting.  Boy, could we take a page out of their book!

As we cruised back to Victoria, we were able to watch the fireworks from the water.  Canada has now been a country for 150 years!  Many of our Indigenous people have been here for thousands of years.  It was a celebration to remember with whales and fireworks on the Salish Sea!



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