A30 Orcas and Humpback whales in Blackfish Sound & Weynton Passage ~ Brilliant viewing!

What a relaxed and magical day we all shared, it was absolutely wonderful. Beginning with an early sighting of a Humpback whale passing by us on a long dive as it travelled quickly to the west, shortly after we left Alder Bay this morning. Cutting across  Johnstone Strait and through the Stephenson Islands, we observed the A30 Matriline at first from a distance and then following from behind. After they had traversed through Lulu Island Pass (Plumper Island waterway) and turned into Blackfish Sound, A38 and A39  commenced foraging to the west at the top end of Blackfish Sound while their sisters,  A50 and A54 and calves were further east, all of them spread out and foraging. We listened and heard their beautiful A-Clan calls via our hydrophone while they foraged, there was  a lot of interaction between A50’s younger calves with spyhopping, breaching and tail slapping behaviour observed; their playfulness kept us watching with much intrigue, anticipation and amusement, it was so special seeing them in this intimate and relaxed manner. Throughout the tour we could see them foraging, resting and suddenly moving forward towards the Queen Charlotte Strait before being swept back into Blackfish Sound with the flooding current.  Adding to the contrast and diversity of the day, there were five Humpback Whales that we also encountered in the area including the first one that we sighted near Alder Bay in Johnstone Strait and also the one in Weynton Passage on our way home.  The highlight of the day for some was the magnificent spontaneous single breach of a humpback whale, an unbelievable sight to those who were lucky enough to be watching! While A50, A54 and calves were relaxed and resting much of our viewing time,  A38 & A39, foraged more intensely, they were exciting to watch and the Humpback Whales appeared effortless in their feeding, passing us nearby and also into the distance we could see them. The day was warm, the sea calm and it was so good to share this day in the company of so many Cetaceans. We also sighted: Dall’s Porpoises, a single Pacific White-sided Dolphin, Harbour Seals, Black Oyster Catchers, Ruddy Turnstones, Rhinoceros Auklets, Common Murres, Belted Kingfishers, Bald Eagles, Red-necked Phalaropes, California, Herring and Glaucous-winged Gulls.

Humpback whales and dolphins today on tour

pacific white-sided dolphins feeding

pacific white-sided dolphins feeding

humpback whale

humpback whale

It was another incredible day where sightings aroused our interest by the hour. Yet again this morning at the dock in Alder Bay, the mother river otter with her four young kits were all accounted for,

humpback whale

humpback whale

close encounter with humpback whale

close encounter with humpback whale

they were hauled out playing on the dock unperturbed that they were being filmed and were delightful to watch! The first humpback whale sighting today was out in the Queen Charlotte Strait; the whale was taking long

note the reddish colouration of the water

note the reddish colouration in the water

note the reddish colouration in the water

note the reddish colouration in the water

dives with 1-2 breaths between dives and with a NW wind blowing and our main sail hoisted, we were able to sail quietly along a distance away. A small group of pacific white-sided dolphins travelling west along the Swanson Island shore could be seen corralling small fish as they worked the shoreline, very focussed in feeding. We had earlier sighted the blows of two more humpback whales down in Blackfish Sound and soon one was close by our boat, at one point we had two whales in close proximity passing us but going in opposite directions. Heading back, still under sail and while serving  Devonshire Tea, another humpback whale could be seen travelling to the west across Blackfish Sound heading for the Plumper Island group and suddenly in the surging of the flooding current, the whale was heading not away from us as we had all thought, but heading towards us, also in the flooding current. The viewing was surprising, exciting and fantastic! Something which we have seldom seen, as the whale went by us, it defecated and the colour rusty red (from its food source) was clearly visible in the water. It was of great interest to us all and I believe to many who might also view our photo and read our blog. I have included an explanation with regard to this subject.

According to research from the Australian Antarctic Division, whale poop is about 10 million times more concentrated with iron than sea water. Here’s why: Iron is found in algae (phytoplankton) on surface waters, Krill eat the algae, Whales eat the krill, the iron eventually ends up back at the surface in the form of whale poop, the algae use this iron for growth. This is a simplified version of what actually happens. It’s a self-sustaining system with a very high level of production. Algae serves as the base for the aquatic food chain, so the more whale poop there is, the more abundant the ocean will be.

Also seen today: dall’s porpoises, harbour seals, rhinoceros auklets, red-necked phalaropes, cassin’s auklets, black oyster catchers, bald eagles and a great blue heron. Arriving back at the Government Dock into Alert Bay, a minke whale was reported by children swimming close to the dock.

A trio of Humpback Whales with fantastic viewing!

Three humpback whales side by side.

Three humpback whales side by side.

A trio of humpback whales

A trio of humpback whales

It was a glorious day when we headed out and making our way through the Pearse Islands harbour seals were seen swimming while bald eagles could be seen perched high amongst the tree tops. There had been a report of two humpback whales sighted near Donegal Head and we caught up to them off Bold Head. As it turned out there were three humpbacks and not two, they were all travelling together and were mesmerizing and magical to watch. Heading east in Blackfish Sound we observed them

Humpback whales diving in unison

Humpback whales diving in unison

S.V. Tuan back in home port of Alert Bay.

S.V. Tuan back in home port of Alert Bay.

turning back to the west taking long dives while surfacing for  2-6 breathes in each dive sequence. Two of the humpback whales were identified as being KC and Cutter. With our main-sail up and a light wind blowing passengers enjoyed a quiet time sailing along, observing the whales and while listening to their blows some trumpeting could also be heard. Leaving the whales we made our way back home passing through scenic waterways of the Plumper Islands and today with the sun shining bright, the bull kelp forests glistened in the sunlight, spreading outwards in the flooding current. Ever changing, while looking behind us, the view-scape was spectacular. The snow-capped Coast Range Mountains of mainland BC made a striking backdrop to the calm blue waters of the Queen Charlotte Strait; it could not have been better and yet it was when suddenly the three humpback whales were sighted once again. In the far distance, the trio of large cetaceans appeared as comfortable travelling companions navigating an empty ocean devoid of any marine traffic and in that precise moment of time, it was an awe-inspiring sight to behold. Other sightings today included: Dall’s porpoises, a small group of pacific white-sided dolphins, rhinoceros auklets, pigeon guillemots, an american robin and belted kingfishers.