Humpback who reversed the extinction of local population, returns for 17th season

To whale watching professionals, she is known as Big Mama; to passengers, she is a blow and a pair of flukes; and to the ecosystem, she’s a game-changer. Prince of Whales Whale Watching is thrilled to confirm, once again, the arrival of a famous humpback whale, to the interior waters of Southern British Columbia and Northern Washington State.

“The Salish Sea is an amazing body of water,” said Prince of Whales Head Naturalist Jennifer Dickson. “In addition to its spectacular ecological diversity and marine mammal density, we have an incredibly dedicated group of skilled and passionate whale watchers and researchers who come out here, year after year, and document who they see. At this point, Big Mama has become a legend.”

The Salish Sea is the body of water containing Puget Sound, Juan de Fuca Strait, Haro Strait, Rosario Strait, and Georgia Strait. It’s unique topography and climate, combined with nutrient rich waters, sustain habitat for numerous marine mammal species, including the most often seen resident orcas, Bigg’s orcas, Grey whales, Minke whales, California sea lions, Steller sea lions, harbour seals, elephant seals, harbour porpoise, Dall’s porpoise. Likewise, the humpback whale flock here to rest and feed.

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Whale Photography 101

We live in a world of perpetual documentation. Everyone wants to be the person to record every pivotal moment in their lives (or their food, whatever, we’re not here to judge). This has given rise to the idea that everyone is a photographer.

Among the people that lament this fact the most, are wildlife photographers. Actual, real-life, professional, photographers. The investment they have made in their equipment, training, skill, and time is phenomenal, and yet they regularly witness people with a 3-year-old smart phone, taking a photo through a window, hoping to get National Geographic quality shots.

That’s probably not gonna happen.

One of the reasons we humans find wildlife photography so darn stunning, is because it often captures things that we can’t see with our naked eye. Sometimes this is because us non-wildlife-photographers don’t have the time or patience to wait the hours, days (or sometimes weeks/months!) required to get the shot we desire. More often, it’s because human eyes physically can’t see far enough, or process images fast enough, to see the details that make wildlife photography so compelling. Remember when an Australian photographer caught a sea lion riding a whale?

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Zodiac Wildlife Adventure Nov 7 12

Today, Sunday was one of those afternoons when everything magical occurred. With a rather stormy set of clouds above, our 12 noon yellow Zodiac left the harbour. The calm sea however, gave incredible visibility for spotting wildlife. Our seasoned and knowledgeable skipper ‘Mark’, headed south where he had seen some misty blows on the horizon. 5 miles south of Victoria we caught up with three Humpback whales, a mother and her calf and a new whale to this area that appeared to have a fairly fresh tear in its Fluke. We watched these incredibly, graceful whales foraging in these productive waters. Ten years ago there were no humpbacks seen in these inland waters, so it is wonderful to see them return year after year. Our skipper then took us deeper into the south west looking for Orca, Transient killer whales. We found a family of River Otters rushing up a rocky bank and Harbour Seals resting along the shores of the picturesque rugged coastline of Vancouver Island. A stop at Race Rocks Ecological Reserve gave us great looks at a Brown Pelican, a rarity for this area. Steller Sea Lions, and three Elephant Seals were also seen. Just as we were leaving our keen-eyed Skipper saw more misty blows south of Race Rocks.

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Ocean Magic Adventure Nov 3 12:15

The Ocean Magic set sail out of the Victoria Harbour at 12.15pm with Capt. Anna at the helm. Scott and Dan were are Naturalists for the afternoon and they shared their knowledge with our guests. Several visitors from The USA and Europe were on board to enjoy the magic of the wildlife here on the coast. Sunshine was the order of the day and we had whales… the really big ones! Humpback whales were seen south and west of Victoria. We observed two initially taking deep dives and lifting their Flukes high so we could see the unique colouration on the underside before they dove. Off in the distance three more were observed traveling together. A mother and her calf and a familiar 4 year old called ‘Split-fin’. Another two Humpback Whales showed up not far off Race Rocks Ecological Reserve. It was amazing to see these behemoths foraging for small schooling fish below the surface. To complete our wildlife adventure, we took in the sights and sounds of the Harbour Seals, and Steller Sea Lions all lounging on favourite rocks at Race Rocks Lighthouse. There were plenty of sea birds on the surface of the water including small Bonaparte’s Gull on their migration.

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Ocean Magic Adventure Oct 30 12:15

Our Skipper Anna took our passenegrs out into the Strait of Juan De Fuca to a report, from one of our Zodiacs, of Humpback Whales. We arrived on scene to view three Humpbacks, with another three close by. With a total of six Humpback Whales to view it was hard to tell where to look. These gentle giants would raise their tails each time for a deep dive, such gracefull animals. Our trip then took a tour fo the world famous Race Rocks Ecological reserve. Here we took in the sights of Stellar Sealions, California Sea Lions, Harbour Seals and even a Bald Eagle. This was yet another wonderful marine wildlife tour by Prince of Whales!
Clint “Orcawizard”, Marie “Orca-Magic”

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Zodiac Adventure Oct 29 12pm

It was one of those days where the clouds above gave way to some much needed sunshine on the west coast. It was a great day too, to see some of the incredible wildlife found in these waters off Victoria. We had guests from Austria, Holland, Germany, Italy, and Victoria. Our very knowledgeable and keen-eyed Skipper ‘Mark’, headed the yellow Zodiac out of the harbour and almost immediately saw the big, bushy blows of two Humpback Whales in the distance. We motored over and watched a mother and her calf take several breaths at the surface and then saw them take deep dives that lasted 5-10 mins. It was awesome to witness their immense size and noisy blows. South of us and closer to the west, we saw another two ‘teenage’ Humpback whales traveling together. These two were identified by Mark to be 4 year olds that have returned each year to these waters. Their behaviour indicated that they were just traveling rather than foraging. A visit to Race Rocks Ecological Reserve gave us great looks at Elephant and Harbour Seals. Barking California Sea Lions, and growling Steller, were seen jockeying for position on favourite rocks. A cruise along the rugged west coast shoreline showed our guests what a magnificent area of the world we live in.

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Ocean Magic Adventure Oct 16 12:15

Yet another perfect sunny, flat, calm warm day. Ok, so it’s not summer warm but it’s warm enough that when the sun shines on you, you don’t need your hat and coat out on the water! We departed the Victoria inner harbour intending to head east to where we heard there were orca off San Juan Island and possibly a superpod. Imagine that in the middle of October. On our way, we came across 2 humpback whales hanging around just a few miles south of Victoria in the Juan de Fuca Strait. We stopped to watch a few of their dives and magnificent tails before heading east. On our way to the orcas, we found a mother and calf humpback whale pair swimming a couple of miles off San Juan Island. The humpbacks have been hanging around in Haro Strait recently (usually over in Juan de Fuca), I am sure this has been very exciting for our friends across the boarder!

We arrived at San Juan Island / Henry Island to find members of Lpod and possibly Kpod and Jpod. Passengers got views of some of the youngsters breaching and traveling with their parents. We were fortunate to get a look at one of the new calves L115 + mom L47.

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Ocean Magic Adventure Oct 14 12:15

Capt. Anna headed the 12.15pm Ocean Magic west of the harbour to encounter three Humpback Whales that had been reported off shore, east of Race Rocks. It was one of those grey, October days however there were plenty of visitors to the west coast that wanted to board the Ocean Magic vessel, to seek and enjoy some of the incredible wildlife to be found in these waters. Conditions were relatively calm this afternoon so it wasn’t long before we saw the big bushy blows of these huge whales. Two adult Humpbacks were taking long dives and then surfacing for four to five breaths. They would lift their majestic flukes high in the air and then down they would dive. We could see another smaller Humpback off in the distance so we headed over to watch this young calf forage for a while, then headed to Race Rocks Ecological Reserve to enjoy the many Steller and California Sea Lions lounging on various rocks. There were many sea birds on rocks and in the water this afternoon, adding interest to yet another great wildlife adventure with ‘Prince of Whales ‘.
Marie, Orca-Magic.

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Ocean Magic Adventure Oct 12 12:15

Today on this October day (but what felt like a spring or summer day) Captain Gordon and crew departed for the Juan de Fuca Strait where we found transient killer whales and they were on long drives. From there we decided to check out the Race Rocks ecological reserve where passengers got a look at the seals, sealions and bird life there. We then departed to find humpback whales, a mother and calf pair swimming calmly together. Not far from them were the T2’s transient killer whales. The group contained adults with one bull and a calf. They split into two groups and appeared to be in a foraging behavior, although we did not see any predation at the surface. After enjoying the perfect sunshine and awesome viewing conditions, we finalized our trip by checking out the Gray whale who was hanging around Enterprise channel and very close to the Victoria shoreline. Today was a perfect October day.

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Ocean Magic Adventure Oct 9 12:15

With dynamic skies over the Olympic Mountains, Washington, the Saturday 12.15pm Ocean Magic vessel set sail and headed south then in an easterly direction toward Hein Bank where it was reported many Orca were foraging. We found them amid the chop on the water, slowly foraging and spread far apart . We could see the Southern Resident community of whales, the fish eaters, in every direction. They were taking deep dives and a few young males could be seen chasing fish. A change in the wind and sea conditions dictated we needed to head back to Victoria where conditions were better. A few Harbour Porpoise were also seen on our return. It was an exciting trip just watching those majestic ‘Orca ‘do their own thing.
Marie,’ Orca-Magic’ and Clint, ‘Orcawizard’

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