July 21, 2016 – This afternoon was a scorcher in Victoria, and Marauder IV steamed out of the harbour full of folks waiting for that first breath of cool sea air – or maybe that was just the crew! We had a long and refreshing trip down toward the Olympic Peninsula. Three or four miles northwest of Dungeness Spit, we encountered a group of three humpback whales travelling side-by-side. We watched them for a few minutes before raising our eyes and realizing that there were up to thirty whales within a few miles of us. Their spouts lit up the horizon like a fountain – all of a sudden, we were in the middle of a humpback feeding bonanza! In every direction you looked, you could see humpback whales in various stages of surfacing, tail-lobbing, slapping with their pectoral fins, or diving with their flukes in the air. Humpbacks off Victoria are normally feeding at depth on small schooling fish, but lately, we have been seeing high numbers of krill close to the surface. These small planktonic crustaceans are a favourite food of humpbacks, and this new influx of food may be what is bringing the humpbacks to our waters in such unprecedented numbers.
It turns out humpbacks aren’t the only ones coming for the feast: about ten minutes into our sighting, what should surface near Marauder IV but a fin whale! This whale was almost equal to the length of Marauder (around 60 feet), with a massive dark blue back and a graceful hooked dorsal fin. The crew’s jaw collectively dropped. Wow! Fin whales are among the largest whales in the world, second only to the blue whale. They are a very rare sight in the Salish Sea; the last time one was spotted here was last fall. After a long and awe-inspiring look at the humpback masses and the fin whale, we made good time to get back to Victoria to a beautiful summer evening. This afternoon’s trip will go down as one of our best this year!
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