July 03, 2006

Out For A Kill

Early morning whale watching was yet another in a string of great ideas for our B.C. trip. Not only were we staying an hour out of Victoria without personal transportation, but we'd been partying the night before with our cousin, and my sister was finding that just because you finished your tonsilitis treatment at lunchtime doesn't make you well by evening for that kind of abuse (especially when combined with tequila).

We did overcome these problems, by catching a later boat, our uncle offering us a ride into town, and my sister's sheer determination to see whales despite the chilling B.C Summer air.

We saw a few seals on our way out on a few rocks and then headed out to open water. The idea taken by modern whale watching tour boats is to float around local pod feeding areas and hope for something. There's also a few guys out on the cliffs in the U.S and Canada looking through observation posts for your "tranistional pods". If somebody finds something, trade honesty relies on not keeping it a secret, and so everybody zooms in on this one location and then must stay 100 yards away from the whales.

We didn't have any luck seeing the local packs of orcas - but we did eventually get a call that someone had spotted a pod of transitionals of the coast of Washington State (later positively ID'd as the T100s). I have plenty of photos showing blue ocean with little black dots to prove it.

Killer Whales do deserve the name. Sure they don't kill people like they were first thought too, and didn't deserve to be hunted down for that - but they're killers nonetheless. Residential packs of killer whales are lazy - they hunt mostly fish. Transient orcas however are real lethal hunters, they take on any marine mammal - from a baby harp seal (described as a cocktail wiener by the on-board guides) to a humpback whale. Yep, whales eat other whales. They tend to stick to the smaller ones, and apparently their technique is to surround the whale to put it into confusion and then swim over and block the prey's blowhole until it drowns. Not very nice, is it?

When the ecologist on board found out that we'd found a pack of transients, and they were headed into an area where grey whales were supposed to be she cheerily said "Maybe, if we're lucky, we'll get to see a kill". Clean wholesome family fun.


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