May 29th - T-Party just outside of Nanaimo!
Reports came in early of transient orca swimming north through Dodd Narrows, a local wildlife hotspot. Not too long after, just outside of Nanaimo Harbour, Captain Mike picked up this large group of 8+ transient killer whales. Cascadia and guests left the dock just before 12pm and within 5 minutes everyone onboard was watching a big group of orca porpoising in the flat calm waters of the Strait.
It was tricky to watch for the first 10 minutes while they were traveling quickly and changing directions, but after a while they stalled and started to socialize. Transient orca spend about 70% of their time traveling and foraging, so we always count ourselves lucky when we get to watch them be social!
More reports came through the radio of killer whales off the shore near Neck Point, so everyone had their eyes on the horizon in case the two groups decided to join up. And that is exactly what they did!
Tall fins of adult male orcas sliced through the water towards the playful group Cascadia was watching. And that’s when the T-Party started. (T-Party is what we say when multiple pods of transient (T) orca join together to socialize (Party!)) There were 20-25 whales from all sorts of pods - young ones breaching and splashing with other young ones, males following and “playing” with adult females, and vocalizations like you wouldn’t believe. Usually transient orca are stealth and silent under the sea, as to not scare away any of their intelligent prey. During this occasion, however, everyone was chatty! The hydrophone was in the water while the engines were shut down and guests were treated to a symphony of whistles and squeaks. Amazing!
Here are some of the best photos by marine naturalist Natalie Reichenbacher.