Victoria Whale Watching Report: Chain Islands, Bald Eagles, and the T18’s (Killer Whale Family!)
August 3, 2020
Monday, August 3rd, 2020 – 12pm Covered Vessel Tour
Thankfully, early morning showers turned into a mostly sunny day, making for a great time to be on the water. After leaving the Victoria Harbour, we set course to the east in search of whales and other wildlife that frequent the waters off south Vancouver Island. It is always interesting to see the city from the strait, including the Oak Bay area, the Victoria Golf Course, and Trial Island Lighthouse.
We moved into the area of Chain Islands, a grouping of 18 small islands at low tide where we found lots of furry and adorable Harbour Seals basking on the rocks. Moms and pups stared back at us as they nursed and enjoyed the warm weather. Many birds also call these islands home including cormorants, Oyster Catchers, gulls, and we also spotted a mature Bald Eagle! Because the area has more shallow waters, we were able to bring aboard a piece of Bull Kelp for guests to see, feel, and taste the fastest growing organism in the world! Bull Kelp is a very important component of west coast marine ecosystems and plays a major role in absorbing carbon dioxide and producing oxygen that we breathe.
We continued our journey southeast where we eventually spotted black dorsal fins slicing the surface like giant razor blades! Upon closer inspection, we knew we were watching the famed T18 Family! They are an absolute favourite Bigg’s (mammal-hunting) family of orcas to all the local whale watchers and researchers in our area. Most of their fame comes from the oldest son of Nootka (T19). Galiano or T19B is a 25-year-old male who sports one of the largest, if not the largest dorsal fin of any male on the coast! Galiano’s dorsal fin does not taper towards the top as much as most males’ dorsal fins. Because it is so wide, it is heavy, so it leans to the left. He also has a large nick in this fin that is very noticeable, even from far away. Not to be outshined by his brother, T19C or Spouter, is also an impressive mature male. They love to swim close to either their Mom or their Grandmother, T18, also known as Esperanza.
The family was consistently surfacing several times in a row and always close together, followed by a longer dive. It was after a particularly long dive that we lost where they might come up. To our surprise, they surfaced off our stern, passed by our port side, and dove again off our bow. It was amazing to see their size, grace, and to hear them exhale! They really are a tight-knit little family who showed our guests exactly why they are local favourites! On our way home, we scanned for more creatures west of the city, where we spotted several Harbour Porpoises foraging in small groups. They are the smallest cetaceans in our area and a potential meal for the Bigg’s Killer Whales we saw earlier. We ended our trip excited to review our photos and share details of our adventure with others.