Written by: Sophie Beshr, Onboard Naturalist
The first sign in spotting a whale is a big blow. This is the whale breathing in and out. You may assume that since they are in the water they have gills just like fish to help them breathe. However, since they are mammals like us they don’t. Both Humpback Whales and Killer Whales have a blowhole on the top of their heads. Since Humpback Whales are much larger than Killer Whales they have two blowholes to get enough air whereas Killer Whales have one.
How do blowholes work? When they need air they stick their head above the surface to breathe out first then breathe in. This action only takes a fraction of a second. At this stage their blowholes will retract to get as much air as needed. After that the air is then transported into the lungs. The blow and spray is when the whales forcefully breathes out and clears away any resting water on top of the blowhole.
They don’t breathe through their mouths the same that people can, they only breathe through their blowholes. This helps them keep breathing and eating completely separate. This way they can capture prey in their mouths and swallow it without the risk of water getting into their lungs.
Killer Whales are almost always moving quickly making them need to breathe on average every minute. However, while traveling you can see them surface every 3-5 minutes. The maximum that they can hold their breath for is around 15 minutes. Humpback Whales however is another story. They can hold their breath for up to or even more than half an hour! When they go down for a really big dive they will be under on average 7-10 minutes, then come up for about 6-8 breaths and repeat the process.
This week on our tours we got the privilege to see many sleeping humpbacks. We also got to see a pod of orcas hunt a Minke Whale and many more hunts happened this week as well. The highlight of the week was 71 of the 75 Southern Resident Killer Whales (S.R.K.W) made an appearance just outside of Victoria harbor. We aren’t allowed to view them since their population is in decline due to the salmon population but it was nonetheless a special moment to know that almost the whole population was together.
Book your tour and come #ExperienceTheWild with us on the Salish Sea!