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The first day of August is a marker of the midway point of summer. We know that there is only one month left before “summer vacation” is over. For us on the water searching for whales, August 1st marks the midway point in the peak whale watching season. Today was no exception. As we have in the past few days, we saw Transient Killer whales with Humpback Whales spouting in the distance as well.

A few days ago we spotted some Bigg’s Transient Killer whales, the T46B’s family, travelling East through the strait of Juan de Fuca. Today we caught up with some of them as they were headed back west. The group was smaller having split off from the others. This allowed us to focus our attention on one special individual. T46B1B made headlines back in May when he was spotted near Nanaimo. What is so special about this whale is its unique colouring. The whale is a pale grey and white instead of the high contrast black and white that Orcas (Killer Whales) are known for. Our Naturalist Emma describes the paleness of the whale as if “the printer was running out of ink when the whale was made”.

A grey juvenile killer whale with an older female
A grey juvenile killer whale with an older female. Photo taken by Naturalist Emma with zoom lens and heavily cropped.

Photos of the young whale show some scratch or “rake” marks on the whale’s back. These types of marks are made from the teeth of other whales dragging on the animals skin. The reason for T46B1B’s scratches is not known but we can speculate two potential reasons. Toothed whales and dolphins will sometimes bite each other as signs of play, aggression or bullying, a natural part of their social behaviour. Another reason is that another whale may have helped during the birthing process, using their teeth to help pull and guide baby T46B1B out of its mother. It is interesting to think about the complex social interactions these whales have with each other.

A young grey orca
A young grey orca showing off the tooth rake marks on its back. Photo by Naturalist Emma with zoom lens and heavily cropped.

We followed the trio of Killer Whales west along the coast, taking photos and admiring their beauty. We then made a turn back towards Victoria.  A quick stop at Race Rocks Ecological Reserve yielded sights of the interesting and cute Sea Lions and Harbour Seals. A lone Northern Elephant Seal was also present at the Ecological Reserve. What a fantastic end to an awesome trip.

Elephant seal
A dozing elephant seal at Race Rocks. Photo by Naturalist Emma, taken with zoom lens and heavily cropped.
Steller sea lion
A majestic male Steller sea lion. Photo taken by Naturalist Emma with zoom lens and heavily cropped.
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