Humpback whales, Orcas and bow-riding Dall’s Porpoises ~ Brilliant viewing!


Dall’s Porpoise


Dall’s Porpoise bow-riding



It was a fantastic and sunny day of viewing in calm, sea blue waters. Our first humpback whale blow was seen off the Plumper Islands in Weynton Passage and with the ebbing current, we were soon out in Blackfish Sound with a whale named Cutter, another Humpback whale was seen due north while two more were further down in Blackfish Sound. A small group of Dall’s Porpoises were seen feeding close along the Plumper Island shoreline and as we observed them, they made their way to the bow of our boat and rode playfully along for a considerable distance. It was absolutely wonderful to see them gliding, streamlined below us and as we watched they darted off, only to return and ride at the bow again and again. For some passengers on board S.V. Tuan today, this was the highlight of the tour! Orcas, the A36 brothers: A37 and 46, were the first Northern Resident Orcas to arrive back into the area yesterday afternoon making their way in, easting off Donegal Head and down through Blackfish Sound. Their echo locations were heard by Orcalab from their hydrophone in Robson Bight this morning and they were seen heading to the west off the Sophia Islands. We were excited to see A46 travelling west and near to Cracroft Point where we left him approaching Cracroft Point but seemingly going nowhere in the current that had turned to flood, he was possibly waiting for A37 to catch him up. We did not get a visual on A37 who yesterday was seen travelling a considerable distance behind his younger brother and while we scanned and scanned we did not see A37, he may well have been in the Robson Bight Ecological Reserve. It was wonderful knowing that the two brothers were still travelling our local waters together and that they were the first orcas to arrive back this summer. Also seen today: harbour seals, rhinoceros auklets, bald eagles, glaucous-winged and mew gulls and belted kingfishers. IMG_4173 IMG_4180 IMG_4184 IMG_4189 IMG_4231 IMG_4243 IMG_4253IMG_4121 IMG_4136 IMG_4138 IMG_4139

In the company of Orcas ~ surreal and beautiful viewing in the fog

IMG_9520 IMG_9546 IMG_9553 IMG_9564 IMG_9578 IMG_9600 IMG_9626 IMG_9630 IMG_9634 IMG_9642 IMG_9650 IMG_9658 IMG_9664When we headed out this morning we did so in bright sunshine with a clear view ahead of us down Johnstone Strait while a heavy fog bank hung above us and soon began dropping as we made our way down the Strait to where Orcas had been reported earlier inside the Robson Bight Ecological Reserve. It was therefore an incredibly moving and beautiful encounter that we were fortunate to witness, just as we neared Blackney Passage this morning when Orcas appeared suddenly out of the fog. There were initially two groups, the A30’s were closer to mid-Strait and the A34’s who were slightly behind but closest to Blackney Passage. It was a breathtaking moment to see the A34’s swimming by under water and then surfacing near the bow of the boat and watching as they stalled momentarily while forming a long resting line of 10 individuals, a beautiful sight and somewhat surreal in the morning fog.  Taking photo’s was not easy with the fog being so dense, there was little contrast between the black and white Orcas,  grey water and dull white foggy surroundings, yet beautiful it was! The A30’s moved ahead along with the A12’s and behind them were the I15’s, spread out, some we observed were foraging along the Hanson Island shoreline and some beautiful G-Clan calls were heard at that point, we had also listened to echolocations and A-Clan calls earlier from the A34’s. Leaving the orcas as they continued moving west, we made our way into Weynton Passage and sighted the blow of a Humpback Whale. The fog was clearing rapidly and soon we could see that there were at least three whales, possibly four moving about in the flooding current, with one seen as far up as Cormorant Channel. It was a fabulous day, topped off as we were nearing Alder Bay with the sighting of yet another Humpback Whale surfacing and diving a distance away from us in Pearse Passage. Also seen today: Stellar Sea Lions, Harbour Seals, Dall’s Porpoises, Bald Eagles, Common Murres, Rhinoceros Auklets, Red-necked Phalaropes, Fork-tailed Storm-Petrels, Black Oyster Catchers, Belted Kingfishers, Great Blue Herons and Mew, Herring and Glaucous-winged Gulls.

Brilliant viewing of Orcas, Humpback & Minke Whales!

IMG_9107 IMG_9113 IMG_9118 IMG_9133 IMG_9179 IMG_9212 IMG_9227 IMG_9261 IMG_9285 IMG_9300 IMG_9303 IMG_9309 IMG_9310It was another day of contrast, colour and visual beauty in Johnstone Strait, beginning with heavy fog early on in the tour when Orcas were first reported heading back to the west in the vicinity of the Robson Bight Ecological Reserve. After briefly glimpsing a Humpback Whale in Weynton Passage, we continued down the Hanson Island shoreline and near the Baron Reefs, just east of Cracroft Point, we knew that we were getting close to the approaching Orcas, but still could not see them due to the denseness of the fog. Suddenly, there some were, surfacing near the bow of our boat, travelling quickly, porpoising along. They were the A50’s from the A30 Matriline and as we looked, Johnstone Strait was suddenly clearing of fog and with the blink of an eye, had vanished and all across the Strait, small groups of Orcas could be seen, spread out, all moving to the west. The sun was bright and warming, the sky blue and the Strait beautiful and shimmering, there was not a breath of wind. Orca blows and that of a Humpback Whale were clearly seen with the Humpback Whale being centre Strait and easting. We also observed some of the I15’s, their G-Clan vocalizations were heard via our hydrophone, as well as echolocations from both the A30’s and I15’s foraging nearby. It was interesting to watch the A50’s who had passed us by, suddenly charge back to forage close to the boat and then continued on in the direction of Cracroft Point where the rest of the A30’s were foraging in the vicinity of Blackney Passage where the current was flooding. The A8’s were also in the mix of orcas in the Strait today. It was up near Weynton Passage in Johnstone Strait that we observed two Humpback Whales lunge feeding through herring balls, and again like yesterday, we observed as the Whales quickly moved to where flocks of gulls were feeding on the herring at the surface of the water while mostly Common Murres had also gathered and were diving under the water to feed, in doing so, driving the herring upwards. As well as lunge feeding, we also observed some feeding where a whale simply hung suspended at the surface of the water and opening its mouth that filled with feed, it closed it, repeating the process a few times before moving on. As we began making our way homeward, a small group of Dall’s Porpoises joined us at the bow, riding along beside us, they treated us to some beautiful close-up viewing of them. Finally, near Pearse Passage, a Minke Whale who we identified as Bolt, was suddenly sighted surfacing nearby providing a wonderful finale to an extraordinary day of numerous Cetacean sightings. Also seen: Harbour Seals, Rhinoceros Auklets, Fork-tailed Storm-Petrels, Red-necked Phalaropes, Great Blue Herons and Gulls++.

Wonderful day sailing with Orcas: A8’s, Humpback Whales lunge feeding & breaching++ and a Minke Whale!

IMG_8401 IMG_8402 IMG_8447 IMG_8449 IMG_8451 IMG_8459 IMG_8608 IMG_8609 IMG_8610 IMG_8611 IMG_8612 We enjoyed an amazing day of viewing Orcas, Humpback Whales++ and a Minke Whale with unbelievable sightings! What a day of contrast and colour, of quiet foraging of Orcas and then amazing lunge feeding and airborne acrobatics by Humpback Whales. Our tour this morning took us first into Weynton Passage where we enjoyed viewing Humpback Whales, it was reported that there were eight in the vicinity but with the sudden sighting of a large male Orca fin out in the Queen Charlotte Strait, we headed in that direction and met up with the A8’s who were foraging initially off Bold Head but moving steadily west, they were taking long dives and were soon off Bold Head and still heading west and a small group of Dolphins were seen amongst them. Their A-Clan vocalizations were beautiful to listen to, all the while we trailed our hydrophone while sailing quietly along.  While the A30’s began making their way into Blackfish Sound from Blackney Passage where they had been foraging in a heavy flooding current with SE winds, we made our way back into Weynton Passage to better enjoy the Humpback Whales. We enjoyed some fabulous viewing of a whale lunge feeding through a herring ball with gulls galore also trying to feed from the herring ball, there were some six more whales sighted close by and everywhere it seemed throughout our tour, the blows of numerous humpback whales could be seen near and far; it was absolutely phenomenal to watch them. We began heading home with a Dall’s Porpoise riding alongside us briefly when suddenly in Pearse Passage we sighted the distinct fin of a Minke Whale surfacing nearby, identifying it as being Bolt, the same Minke Whale that we had seen in recent days and then remarkably the blow of yet another Humpback Whale was sighted just as the Minke Whale resurfaced, the dilemma then was where best to look and from which side of the boat? And so began the fabulous viewing of a whale breaching time and again into the wind, it was mesmerizing to watch as the whale breached clear out of the water while at times we observed it waving its pectoral fins high, it was a brilliant finale to an amazing tour! Also seen: Dall’s Porpoises, Pacific White-sided Dolphins, Harbour Seals, Stellar Sea Lions, Rhinoceros Auklets, Common Murres, Fork-tailed Storm-Petrels, Bald Eagles, Red-necked Phalaropes, Great Blue Herons, Belted Kingfishers, California, Mew, Herring and Glaucous-winged Gulls.

Sailing with the A30’s ~ phenomenal viewing of foraging orcas especially A93

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What a wonderful time we shared with the A30’s today, our entire time with them was spent sailing and it was so lovely as well, being able to listen to their A-Clan calls and echolocation via our hydrophone trailing behind us as we sailed along. The morning was a gorgeous one with a red sky reflecting across the waters here in Alert Bay while in Alder Bay when we arrived, the lighting had changed to blues and greens with golden glints and it was beautiful listening to the cries of gulls who had gathered in large numbers, a familiar sound as summer begins to wane. Today it was at the bottom end of Hanson Island where we encountered the A30’s this morning, they were foraging in Blackney Passage, spread out, A39 was in the lead this time, foraging close to the Hanson Island shoreline when they began travelling to the west; the A50’s came behind with the A54’s following and A38 lingered awhile in Blackney Passage before he too made his way west but a distance out from the shoreline. With our mainsail up and a light southeasterly wind blowing it was perfect for moving us along, quietly at the same pace as the orcas. What an incredible experience we all shared in when the A54’s turned back to forage nearby us, and unbelievably A93 commenced to forage intensely around our boat. Back and forth, lunge feeding at the stern with giant lunging splashes and swimming alongside the hull and then back and forth at the bow, it was phenomenal viewing to say the least! Looking through the photographs taken for identification, it was easy to ascertain from the open saddle patch that the orca was none other than four year old A93. Leaving the orcas to continue on their way foraging west, we made our way in through Weynton Island (small passage) viewing numerous hauled out Harbour Seals and Pigeon Guillemots while in the distance the blow of a Humpback Whale was sighted. En route to viewing the whale we enjoyed observing the leisurely pace of several Stellar Sea-Lions, lying in shallow waters, they were unperturbed at our watching them! The Humpback Whale was moving about considerably in Weynton Passage in the flooding current, there were herring balls++ with gulls++ feeding on them as well. Also seen today: Dall’s Porpoises, Rhinoceros Auklets, Common Murres, Black Oyster Catchers, a Double Crested Cormorant, Bald Eagles and an Eaglet sitting high in branches, Belted Kingfishers, Great Blue Herons, Ruddy Turnstones, Gulls of numerous species++.

Resident orcas: A34’s & A36’s inbound today!






It was a perplexing and exciting day with many orcas in the area, both Resident and Biggs (Transient) Orcas. Making our way out through the Plumper Islands into Blackfish Sound this morning in foggy conditions, we stopped frequently to listen for Humpback whale and Orca blows. We heard one Humpback whale blow but because of heavy marine traffic in the area it was difficult to listen for further blows, however, it was also at that time that orcas were reported travelling in from the Penfold Islets in the Queen Charlotte Strait and simultaneously, a Humpback whale was also sighted nearby.  As we headed in the direction of the orcas, the heaviness of the fog had dissipated allowing good visuals of the Queen Charlotte Strait and soon we could see a group of orcas travelling towards us, they were grouped together in a resting line.  While most of the fog had cleared there still remained a thin veil which made identification of the orcas difficult and also because they were grouped so close together and a new calf was among them, it was exciting; knowing that it was “in-coming orcas” of some 10 – 11 in number and they were not the A30’s.  With photo identification, we were able to acurately identify the A34 Matriline and also the A36 Matriline (brothers A37 & A46) travelling together in a resting line. It is the first visit that the A34’s have made it into the area all summer and the fact that there was a new calf among them and that the A36’s were also with them, adjoined to the line, was heart warming and very significant news!  The new calf has now been identified by Jared (DFO) as A62’s new calf. At the time of the sighting of the orcas, a second humpback whale was also sighted close by. With the A34’s and A36’s accounted for, it was amazing to then learn that the A30 Matriline had gone by us,  somewhere silent in the fog, as well,  two groups of Biggs Transient Orcas were sighted in the vicinity of Blackney Passage. A mystery in the making and a puzzle solved, it was a fabulous viewing! Also seen today: Dall’s Porpoises, Harbour Seals,  Pigeon Guillemots, Rudy Turnstones, Belted Kingfishers, a Great Blue Heron, a Double Crested Cormorant, Rhinoceros Auklets, Marbled Murrelets, Fork-tailed Storm Petrels,  Common Murres and Gulls (Glaucous-winged, Herring, Mew and California).