Sunday, August 25, 2013

Just Passing Through

They don't call it Sunday for nothing, you know. And a gorgeous Sunday it was as Louise and I headed down to Great Pacific Adventures for a morning of whale watching.

While some folks went out in a zippy sport model....
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...we were out in the King Salmon, a 45-foot ocean cruiser.

The last couple of times we've been out whale watching we headed out of Victoria into American waters towards the south-south east, finding J-Pod of the local southern resident orcas in the San Juan Islands. Today, the residents were spotted far to the north near Active Pass, about as far away as the local whale watching companies can travel and return in time for their next run. The question was were the killer whales going to hang around long enough for us to get there? For a while it looked like all I was to get were pictures of ferries...
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...especially when we turned around before we got to Active Pass. I assumed we turned around because we just weren't going to make it before the whales moved on, but it turned out a small group of transient killer whales had been spotted along the south shore of South Pender Island as they made there way along the west coast of the continent. Since that was on the way back, we'd have more time on site than if we continued after the resident pod. And a good choice it was as soon we saw them slowly meandering up the channel.
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It looks like Homeland Security runs whale watching trips on the side. Who knew?

The naturalist guide aboard our vessel thought there were five or six travelling together, although the most I could see at one time was four, but one of them was clearly a juvenile.
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And soon they were off, and so were we.
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How close is too close when you encounter whales?
Fisheries and Environment Canada recommend that vessels (and that includes kayaks) should stay a minimum 100 metres away from whales. Don't approach from in front or behind, only from the sides.

More pictures are here.
And embedded below is a bonus video. While we ended up watching the transients, here's a video of what the southern residents were doing in Active Pass (via bcpolak on youtube). It turns out that all three southern resident pods had formed a superpod. About 80 orcas swam through the pass at once!

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