In Search of Whales ~ Juan de Fuca Strait, Victoria, BC Canada
Looking for Whales
The first orcas (killer whales) we see are topiary, in downtown Victoria.
There is something special about whales.
Granted, except for trips to the Vancouver Aquarium many, many, years ago, I’ve only ever seen bits of whales – a dorsal or a tail or a flipper – as most of their huge bodies stay submerged. I’m still waiting to see a whale breach; I’ve seen some magnificent photos, but when I’m on the water, these giant sea mammals seem to be feeling less playful.
Still, my husband and I love being on the water, and knowing that there might be whales around makes it an extra special treat.
We were extremely lucky last year: we participated in whale-watching tours twice. Once was last October, during the antipodean spring, when humpbacks make their annual migration south – past my home in Eden, NSW – to their summer feeding grounds in Antarctica (Watching Water 2).
The other time was on the opposite side of the ocean, in Canada’s Pacific Northwest, where my brother treated us to a morning of whale watching on the Prince of Whales Ocean Magic II, out of Victoria BC.
It might have been high summer, but weather on Vancouver Island waters can be chancy, cold and wet, so we rugged up warmly before setting out in search of whales.
Sailboats on Victoria Harbour ~
~ with the dome of the British Columbia Legislature Building in the background.
A group of whale watchers in their Mustang Survival flotation suits return from their tour. Our sixty-two foot cabin cruiser was much more sheltered!
Our guide talks us through the niceties and necessities.
Prime real estate on Victoria Harbour.
Boat in Blue
The water, the sky, the mountains around us – everything is blue.
As we approach the eastern entrance of the Strait of Juan de Fuca in the Salish Sea, the lighthouse at Race Rocks Marine Protected Area comes into view.
It is hard to ignore the appeal of those big eyes!
The male sea lions, especially, can be heard and smelled long before they can be seen clearly.
The radio says whales have been sighted! We pull way from Race Rocks, and watch the water for signs of movement.
Prince of Whales Zodiac
The zodiak is also on the hunt for cetaceans.
Sure enough! We soon sight the backs of two killer whales – part of a small pod of transient orcas.
Orcas on the Hunt
Transients, one of at least three distinct species of killer whales, travel in small, loosely organised pods. They are deadly hunters and eat other mammals.
Circling like sharks, the pod have found a seal or some other animal. The blood is faintly visible on the water.
One of the other whale-watching boats is well placed to witness the struggle.
For the longest time, it looked like a lump of log on the water – but no, it is a humpback whale. Unfortunately she’s feeling no more playful than the killers ~
~ and we have to make do with a half-hearted tail wave before she sounds.
Coming into Port
Too soon it is time to return to the harbour…
… of Vancouver Island’s garden city.
Our boat pulls back into her berth.
Victoria Harbour Authority
The killer whale is an integral part of First Nations’ culture, and is regularly represented in local art.
Boats on the Harbour
The skies are considerably bluer than when we set out in the morning!
The beautiful weather brings people out to the waterfront to watch the harbour seals.
One seal knows that where there are humans, there is likely to be an easy feed –
Feeding the Seal
… and sure enough, people feed it with fish bought especially for that purpose.
One day, I’ll get that elusive photograph of a whale breaching…
But in the mean time, I’m happy just to be on and around the water.