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Today was a great start to the weekend. The weather was perfect for whale watching: sunny, warm and not a cloud in the sky.

A group of playful Killer Whales
A playful group of Bigg’s (Transient) Killer Whales, Photo by Naturalist Laas, image taken with zoom lens and heavily cropped.

After all the passengers boarded the vessel, the Marauder IV set out in search of marine mammals. At the mouth of the harbour, with the gorgeous views of Washington State’s National Olympic Peninsula, Captain Ian had to decide if we should head East or West. There was a rumour of some Killer Whales to the East, so that is where we headed.

Bigg's Breach
A breaching Bigg’s (Transient) Killer Whale. Photo by Captain Yves, image taken with zoom lens and heavily cropped.

We were not disappointed. The Marauder IV was on scene with Bigg’s (Transient) Killer Whales just West of San Juan Island. There were three families of these Orca Whales: the T65’s, T75B’s and T75C’s. In the group were a combination of mothers with their calves. These whales reach sexual maturity at 13-15 years old, at which point you can tell the sex of the whale based on the shape of their dorsal fin. A male killer whale dorsal fin can reach up to 2 meters (6 ft) and have a straight back whereas a female’s dorsal fin is smaller and more crescent shaped.

Tail Slap Killer Whale
A tail slap from a Bigg’s (Transient) Killer Whale Photo by Naturalist Emma, Taken with zoom lens and heavily cropped.

Because these calves are young and still have not reached maturity, we are unable to identify their sex. Another indication of their gender is how many slits are located on the underbelly of the whale. A male will have two slits whereas a female will have four. The two extra slits are for nursing their young. Luckily for the passengers on board, the Transient Killer Whales were jumping for joy and Naturalist Emma was able to get a photograph of the belly.

Bigg's Jumping
A Bigg’s (Transient) Killer Whale Breaching, Photo by Naturalist Emma, Taken with zoom lens and heavily cropped.

Mothers watch their calves as they propel their bodies partially or entirely out of the water, known as breaching. The calves also slapped their tail flukes against the surface of the water. These fluke slaps can be heard from over four hundred meters away. The calves also engaged in some spy hopping, bringing their head vertically out of the water to about eye level.

Zodiac and covered boat
Zodiac RipTide following close behind Marauder IV. Photo by Naturalist Trina.

On the way back into port, the Marauder IV made a stop at Chatham Islands as well as Trial Islands where passengers were able to see the plump Harbour Seals as well as a single Bald Eagle perched up high on a pole. We returned to the Victoria Harbour with some happy passengers. Some passengers hopped right onto a harbour ferry and made their way over to Fisherman’s Wharf, another great spot to visit when in Victoria.

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