June 3, 2017 – Humpback Whale, Seals & Sea Lions
June 3, 2017
On this morning’s whale watching excursion, we left the docks on flat calm waters, but were greeted by rolling waves as we entered the Juan de Fuca Strait. The fleet fanned out in search of marine life in the chilly waters that surround our little city.
We searched to the south and west, landing us close Washington shores on the other side of the Strait. Word on the radio was that a humpback was near. After a long wait, we finally spotted the wide blow of the creature we were looking for!
Humpbacks area baleen species who have baleen in their mouths instead of teeth. They use baleen to sieve out water and trap fish in their oversized mouths. A humpback can hold 20,000 liters of water in just one mouthful! No wonder their mouth extends to their belly button.
This humpback was clearly searching for school of fish or plumes of krill deep in the ocean because he or she was doing long dives and moving in circles. Sometimes we have to do a lot of whale waiting before we get to do some whale watching, but it is all worth it when you consider you are spending time with a species that was hunted to the brink of extinction!
After hanging out with the humpback as long as possible, we plowed through the choppy waters to the calmness of the Victoria Harbour. It was a fun morning to be on the Salish Sea!
On a beautiful weekend evening, we untied from Ogden Point and set course west in the Salish Sea. With recent sightings of a lone male transient killer whale and several humpbacks in that area, it was the best place to search for whales.
We edged into the islets at Race Rocks Lighthouse to show guests the awesome marine life that call this marine reserve home. The harbour seals were the first to be spotted, with dozens laying on the rocks, batting their big, round eyes at us. Next we came across the two species of sea lions we are so lucky to have here. A California sea lion seemed to be very comfortable as he made the staircase his napping spot of choice. Others barked and Steller sea lions growled on the rocks below the lighthouse.
A young lady on our trip was the first to spot a rare sight- there were not one but three HUGE male elephant seals resting on the grass near the house! These males can grow to over 16 feet in length and weigh up to 5,500 pounds! Elephant seals are deep divers, capable of holding their breath for over 100 minutes and reaching depths of 1550 meters! WOW! The only other marine mammals that can hold their breath longer belong to the cetaceans.
To top the wildlife off, we spotted a gorgeous bald eagle on one of the islets. As it swooped into the air, we had a chance to see it’s magnificent wing-span and graceful movements.
After searching until dark, we were unable to find whales in the area. Sometimes the whales are not out there at the same time as us. Wildlife focus on food, so if the food is somewhere else, they will leave our region. But the bounty of marine life at Race Rocks and the beautiful sunset made the evening an amazing experience indeed.