Time well spent with Humpback whales, Orcas and a Minke whale!

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August 13th

Sightings: Orcas, Humpback whales, a Minke whale, Stellar Sea Lions, Harbour seals, Dall’s porpoises, Pacific White-sided dolphins, Bald Eagles, Rhinoceros and Cassin’s Auklets, Common Murres, Black Oystercatchers, Black Turnstones and Gull species.

It was superlative out on the water today as literally all the marine mammals that call this place their home were seen by our guests. Three tours, 10+ Humpbacks, 60 Orcas, 20+ Pacific White-sided dolphins and hundreds of feasting birds made it an exceptional experience for our visitors from all over the world. Even the weather displayed its many moods as the first tour started off with overcast skies and some precipitation, yet ended in sunshine and patches of blue sky.

Numerous Humpback blows were seen on our first tour as well as a full blown breach as a whale used the power of its fluke to propel its large body completely out of the water. Porpoises cruised through the narrow channels, utilizing the push from the steadily moving current. Stellar Sea Lions have started to establish themselves in the area, particularly the males who at this time of year are looking to take up residence which they do throughout the winter months. On our way home between Alder Bay and Alert Bay a Minke whale was seen travelling mid channel giving our passengers a fun-filled and action packed three hour tour.

As the afternoon arrived, so did the Northern Resident Orcas. They had been traveling in from the West and by the time our second tour was out, boats had sighted and reported their arrival. A large number of orcas and two clans (two language groups) were present this afternoon, the A23/25s, I16s, I65s, G03s, G27s, G02s, G46s, G16s, I11s, I33s and A30s which meant for interesting vocals that were heard over the hydrophone. It literally felt like a family gathering, a congregation as the different pods spread themselves over the broad expanse of Blackfish Sound.

By the time our third tour was out and about, the Orcas had made their way into Johnstone Strait and were heading towards the Robson Bight Ecological Reserve. This is an area 1 mile offshore and 7 miles along the coast that is a sanctuary for our Resident Orcas. It was discovered that the whales like to gather in the area as a family and rub their bodies along the smooth pebbles that line the beaches. It is an important social activity which has been a part of their complex social system for many years. Boats, kayakers or even hikers on the beach disturbed the whales from this activity and so it became a reserve. It is the only place the whales can go and not be bothered by humans.

As we headed home at the end of a long but exciting day, our grand finale was watching three Humpback whales swimming side by side. We were drifting silently with our engines off when they turned towards us. We sat frozen and still and enjoyed this beautiful encounter. The sun was slowly descending, and soon sat low on the horizon.  It did not take long for the sky to be filled with fiery reds and rusty oranges and the greens from the islands and mountains were cast in darkness. The many birds that spent their day hunting and foraging were heading to their perch for the night, and the whales continued about their evening but in quieter waters.

Seasmoke Whale Watching photo’s have been taken with a telephoto lens and cropped.

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