Victoria Whale Watching Report: Transient Orca Whales – T46’s
July 8, 2020
Wednesday, July 8th, 2020- 10am Covered Vessel Tour
With guests joining us from across Canada, we set out onto the Juan de Fuca Strait aboard the Pacific Explorer. No matter what direction you look, you have a chance of seeing whales, so we kept our eyes peeled as we made our way southwest. Small, triangular fins popped up along the way as we passed by small Harbour Porpoises, the smallest cetacean species in our waters.
They were just a small black dots at first in the distance, but as we cruised towards the little flecks of black, they grew into triangular-shaped dorsal fins! We found a family of mammal-hunting orcas called Bigg’s or Transient Killer Whales. There were two mature males in the group who were easy to identify as T046D (Strider) and T046E (Thor). These boys are brothers and were born in 2000 and 2003, respectively. They were travelling close to their legend of a mother- T046 (Wake), who has one nick near the top and one nick near the bottom of the trailing edge of her dorsal fin. Wake’s oldest offspring is T122 (Centeki), and her youngest calf is a boy named Loki who was born in 2012. They are a favourite family among local whale watchers and we were all so excited to see this family travelling, likely searching for any unsuspecting Harbour Seals!
Strider is famous for the two large nicks out of this dorsal fin near the top end, and the tip tips to one side a bit too. His brother Thor sports his own dorsal fin nick, but it is just over halfway down his fin. Male orcas can have dorsal fins that tower 6 to 7 feet tall! Females will have dorsal fins that reach 2-3 feet and they will remain curved their entire lives. The Bigg’s orcas only eat mammals, so the local menu includes seals, sea lions, porpoises, dolphins, and even other whales like Minkes, Grey Whales, and Humpbacks. They hunt as a family and share their spoils with each other. Seeing the oceans top predator is always an amazing and unforgettable experience!
On our long way back to port, we snuck in a visit to the historic Race Rocks Lighthouse and surrounding islands. Here we were excited to see a mature Bald Eagle in flight, while a juvenile looked out from atop one of the islands. It’s Harbour Seal pupping season, therefore we spotted lots of little, chubby seal pups and their moms. Pigeon Guillemots struggled to lift their bodies into the air, exposing their bright red feet, and a voluptuous male Elephant Seal was galumphing his way along at the top of the boat ramp! This big fella could reach 6,000 pounds! Elephant Seals are extreme avid divers and spend months at sea without coming to shore. Their long noses called a proboscis give then a unique look, but their size is usually the most impressive feature of this exceptional pinniped species! He was a great addition to our list of wildlife as headed back to the Victoria Harbour. Don’t forget to check out pictures of all these creatures on our Flickr page!