June 2nd - T49A's and T65A's near Patos Island (plus bonus humpbacks!)
So many whales on Saturday! And so much surface activity!!
Both of our vessels, the semi-covered "Quick Change II" and open zodiac "Cascadia", headed south on Saturday afternoon towards a report of killer whales. Two pods, the T49A's and T65A's (including the new, extra cute baby!) had been spotted traveling and socializing together. The 49A's are a family pod of 5 whales and the T65A's are a family of 6 whales - that's right, 11 whales splashing around together!
Matriarch "Nan" (T49A) is a successful mother who was born in 1986 and has been having calves since 2001 when her oldest son "Noah" (T49A1) was born. Her eldest daughter "Judy" (T49A2) was born in 2007 and often travels separately from the rest of the T49A's. Having the eldest daughter break off and travel on her own is common to see with Transient orca family pods, perhaps to increase her chances of mating and to start her own matriline eventually.
T49A's youngest calf was born in 2014 and now eats marine mammals just like it's mom! Hunting for harbour seals, sea lions, and porpoises takes many skills that are learned over years and years of practicing with mom and family. This young whale has been studying it's big brothers' and mom's hunting strategies closely and will have crucial role in helping to capture prey for the family to share.
NOAA had a zodiac on scene collecting samples for whale research. See the person on the bow with a pool net! Scat and prey samples are collected to give us a better idea of what these whales are eating. Scat also contains hormones and bacteria, both which tell us so much about the whales' health.
The 65A's are led by martiarch T65A who is also pretty famous for being an amazing mom! Less than a month ago a new calf, T65A6, was seen with T65A, making it her 5th surviving calf! Killer whale calves are known to have a survival rate of only 50%. Killer whales have the longest gestation period out of any marine mammal, an astounding 17 months! After that the calf needs to learn very quickly how to swim and communicate and needs to nurse for 1-2 years. That's a lot of work for mama!
Our guests were thrilled to see the baby peek its head and blowhole up out of the water right next to mom. The baby even jumped a few times! Next to the towering fin of a mature male, this jumping baby looked like a mere salmon (even though it already weighs over 400lbs!).
On the way to the whales we stopped to see a large group of male California sea lions near the pulp mill and on the way home we stopped at Entrance Island to see Steller sea lions. So many marine mammals squeezed into a 5 hour tour!
Passengers onboard the Quick Change II spotted two humpback whales after they'd visited with the orcas. Double species day for some of our guests!