Written by: Ryan, Naturalist
For the week of June 20-26, 2022
This week out on the water was one to remember for both our guests and our naturalists. We started the week off with one of our more common families (and one of my personal favorites!) the T123s just south of Saturna Island, where Sidney, her son Stanley and her two daughters Lucky and Darcy casually entered the exclusion zone. While we were only able to view from outside of the exclusion zone, Stanley’s massive dorsal fin was seen well enough for a memorable experience. Encounters with Bigg’s Killer Whales are usually at the top of our guests’ lists, so it is always great to come across them.
The middle of the week followed the same exciting energy that kicked off our summer, including a playful encounter with the calf of one of the most famous Humpback whales, Big Mama. Big Mama and her newest calf started off on the eastern coast of San Juan Island where they stuck fairly close to shore, performing multiple shallow dives and showing off their wonderful flukes. Big Mama was one of the very few Humpback whales to return to the Salish Sea following their population’s demise during the whaling era, but she spread the word quickly to other whales about the all-you-can-eat buffet awaiting them in the Salish Sea. With such an amazing backstory, it was no surprise that her newest calf is a spunky one for sure. Just days later, the pair was spotted just west of Race Rocks, where we frequently see sea lions, harbour seals, and occasionally our resident sea otter Ollie. Big Mama and her calf were travelling west at a constant speed and making occasional dives when suddenly her calf breached less than 100m or so off the side of the Catalina Adventure (Jake has an excellent picture of this). Adult humpbacks exert the same amount of energy required for a human to complete a marathon, so this pair must have had lots of energy to burn off as they were both seen breaching in a similar area later in the week.
The end of the week did not disappoint either. Everybody loves the weekend and so do our Killer Whales, as the T99s, T36As, T65As and T46s put on quite the show for our guests over the last couple of days. The T65As were seen mingling with a few members from another family of Bigg’s Killer Whales, the T46s just south of Race Rocks. As we arrived on scene, two large bulls separated from the rest of the group and came to investigate our vessel and began tail-slapping before casually reuniting with the rest of the pack. Luckily for our guests on the outer decks, they were outside of the splash-zone. The following day the T99s and T36As entered the Salish Sea and were seen around Sooke where we witnessed multiple feedings, breaches, spy hops, and one adult even vocalized outside of the water for everyone to hear! Their newest calf (estimated to be around a month old) was also present. This week was definitely one to remember out in the Salish Sea, and I hope this same energy carries on throughout the season!