Written by Lori, Naturalist – Week of August 9th, 2021
The wildlife encounters here at Orca Spirit Adventures have been nothing short of awe-inspiring this week! It has been a week filled with breaches, spyhops, and tail lobs from some of our favourite marine mammals. When we head out of the harbour we never know quite what to expect – but the diversity of life in the Salish Sea never fails to humble and astound us.
One of the most incredible encounters from our tours happened at the beginning of the week. We set course to view a group of Transient Killer whales – but before we were able to reach them we had a humpback whale breach right alongside our boat! Humpback whales may breach for any number of reasons. Breaching can be a play behaviour, a form of communication, a strategy to slap off pesky barnacles, and even a sign of aggression. The reason for a breach always depends on the context.
In this case, it is very likely that this humpback was breaching aggressively in order to discourage the nearby Transient killer whales from approaching too closely. Transient killer whales have been known to attack humpback calves, and these killer whales are less than welcome visitors when they enter the vicinity of humpback whales. It was truly incredible to see these two species interact.
We were also beyond excited to see the T18 family this week! This is a group of four mammal-hunting killer whales that includes two females and two males. This family is very famous on our coast because of the two large males – Galiano and Sprouter. They are well-known and easily identifiable due to their huge and impressive dorsal fins. They draw many gasps from crew and guests alike as they come to the surface to breathe.
We have had so many incredible wildlife encounters heading out West over the past few days. When we head out West we can’t help but make a stop at Race Rocks Lighthouse! This marine ecological reserve abounds with Steller sea lions, California sea lions, harbour seals, and various marine birds. This week we were fortunate to see both Ollie the sea otter at Race Rocks, as well as a Northern elephant seal! Northern elephant seal males can grow to be a whopping 6,000 pounds and are known for their incredible diving abilities. They are always a treat to spot on our tours.
Wildlife encounters from this week left us feeling humbled and eager to see more of the incredible creatures that call the Salish Sea home. We can’t wait to see what each day brings, and surely our next unforgettable experience is right around the corner.