In Search of Whales ~ Juan de Fuca Strait, Victoria, BC Canada

Topiary orcas, downtown Victoria,

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.

View of Victoria Harbour, sailboats foreground, the British Columbia Legislature Building in the background.

Sailboats on Victoria Harbour ~
~ with the dome of the British Columbia Legislature Building in the background.

A yellow Zodiak in Victoria Harbour; people in red Mustang Survival flotation suits.

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!

Portrait: balding, bearded man with an orange PFD.

Safety Demonstration
Our guide talks us through the niceties and necessities.

Floating Homes on Victoria Harbour, BC.

Floating Homes
Prime real estate on Victoria Harbour.

A Sailboat against blue water and mountains.

Boat in Blue
The water, the sky, the mountains around us – everything is blue.

Landscape: layers of blue hills and mountains around the Salish Sea; Race Rocks lighthouse on a rocky island

Race Rocks
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.

Two Harbour Seals on the rocks, Race Rocks, BC.

Harbour Seals
It is hard to ignore the appeal of those big eyes!

A Bald Eagle sitting, Race Rocks, BC

Bald Eagle

A sea lion on the rocks, Juan de Fuca Strait

Sea Lion
The male sea lions, especially, can be heard and smelled long before they can be seen clearly.

People on a boat railing, Race Rocks , BC

Watching Water
The radio says whales have been sighted! We pull way from Race Rocks, and watch the water for signs of movement.

Yellow Prince of Whales Zodiac on the waters of Juan de Fuca, BC

Prince of Whales Zodiac
The zodiak is also on the hunt for cetaceans.

The backs and tails of two killer whales, Juan de Fuca, BC

Orcas’ Tails
Sure enough! We soon sight the backs of two killer whales – part of a small pod of transient orcas.

Small pod of transient orcas, Race Rocks, BC

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.

Killer whales hunting, Juan de Fuca, BC

Circling like sharks, the pod have found a seal or some other animal. The blood is faintly visible on the water.

Alpine whale-watching cruiser, whales and a cargo ship, Juan de Fuca Strait,

Alpine Cruiser
One of the other whale-watching boats is well placed to witness the struggle.

Humpback Dorsal fin and back, Juan de Fuca Strait, BC

Humpback Dorsal
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 ~

Half a humpback tail, Juan de Fuca Strait, BC

Humpback Tail
~ and we have to make do with a half-hearted tail wave before she sounds.

View of Victoria

Coming into Port
Too soon it is time to return to the harbour…

Victoria BC

… of Vancouver Island’s garden city.

Ocean Magic docked, Victoria BC

Ocean Magic
Our boat pulls back into her berth.

Victoria Harbour Authority sign

Victoria Harbour Authority
The killer whale is an integral part of First Nations’ culture, and is regularly represented in local art.

Sail boats moored on Victoria Harbour. BC.

Boats on the Harbour
The skies are considerably bluer than when we set out in the morning!

Harbour Seal under water, Victoria BC

Harbour Seal
The beautiful weather brings people out to the waterfront to watch the harbour seals.

Portrait: Harbour Seal, Victoria Harbour, BC

Harbour Seal
One seal knows that where there are humans, there is likely to be an easy feed –

People on a wharf, Feeding a harbour seal, Victoria BC

Feeding the Seal
… and sure enough, people feed it with fish bought especially for that purpose.

Text: Safe SailingOne 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.

Safe Sailing!

Pictures: 27August2012

  • gabe - October 24, 2013 - 7:06 pm

    Yes one day we will see A breachReplyCancel

  • Thomas - October 31, 2013 - 5:26 pm

    Great photos. Next time we’ll order a breaching whale!ReplyCancel

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