April 28th - Multiple pods of transient orcas in the Strait!

April 28th, 2018

Saturday was a day for the ducks! Rain drizzled on our guests through grey skies as they suited up and pushed off the dock in search of whales. The good news - whales don't care about the rain! Also, orcas had been found by another whale watching company so our boat could head straight to the action.

 A rainy, grey day in the Strait with some transient orca. Photo by M Campbell and J Clyburn.

A rainy, grey day in the Strait with some transient orca. Photo by M Campbell and J Clyburn.

Two groups of transient orca had been found in the Strait and our vessel stayed with the most northern group as they milled about. Two different pods were traveling and milling together, the T36As and potentially the T123s. Included in this group was an adult male orca who is distinguishable by a nick about 1/3 of the way down his dorsal fin.

 From this view you can really appreciate the size (girth!) of these animals. Photo by M Campbell and J Clyburn.

From this view you can really appreciate the size (girth!) of these animals. Photo by M Campbell and J Clyburn.

 An adult female milling in the Strait. Photo by M Campbell and J Clyburn.

An adult female milling in the Strait. Photo by M Campbell and J Clyburn.

Orcas are constantly on the move to discover new prey and can travel 70-100 miles per day! These transient killer whales are known for being very stealth and were given the nick-name 'wolves of the sea'. They must communicate quietly in order to surprise their prey. Warm blooded marine mammals like seals, sea lions, and porpoises all have amazing hearing underwater and would definitely hear killer whales approaching if they were vocalizing loudly. 

 Lots of directional change, perhaps they are listening for prey. Photo by M Campbell and J Clyburn.

Lots of directional change, perhaps they are listening for prey. Photo by M Campbell and J Clyburn.

These black and white patterns on the body of a killer whale assist them with communicating through body language. A quick turn to the side and flash of their white underside, that could mean something to other members of their pod. Like police using hand signals to surround and enter a building, while out whale watching you never know if transient orcas are planning a silent attack!

 Coming up to get a fresh breath of air. Photo by M Campbell and J Clyburn.

Coming up to get a fresh breath of air. Photo by M Campbell and J Clyburn.

We know a lot about orcas because they have been observed and documented for decades on our coast. By using the shapes of their dorsal fins and markings on their saddle patches (grey area behind the dorsal fin), we can even study group and family interactions. We love seeing two family groups travel together; it's so fascinating to think about what brought them together and for how long will they work together before splitting off again. Are they friends? Are they mating? As much as we know, there is much more to find out about these mysterious animals!

 Two families travel and hunt together in the Strait of Georgia. Photo by M Campbell and J Clyburn.

Two families travel and hunt together in the Strait of Georgia. Photo by M Campbell and J Clyburn.

Jilann LechnerComment