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Dock Talk

Humpback Whales

Canadian Princess Resort - October 15, 2013

The best wildlife show I ever saw was put on by a group of humpback whales. It was during the Fish Off weekend for the Ucluelet Salmon Ladder Derby. There were several Canadian Princess guests competing in the derby and we had a loaded Delta Cruiser and a few Boston Whaler Outrages on the water. This time I on Derby Patrol and on another boat.

We had suffered through horrible weather the day before. It was the last day of the Fish Off competition, near the end of the day, and the rush of the morning bite was over. We were just thinking of making another round to check out the boats fishing in the area when a humpback whale took us by complete surprise, breaching entirely out of the water! We stood in awe as another whale joined this one and the two of them continued to jump out of the water over and over again!

We see whale spectacles like this often on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Although the Whale Watching boats are parked for another season at the Canadian Princess Resort, other tour operators in the area are giving reports of whale sightings in Ucluelet this time of year. They are seeing Humpback whales specifically.

Humpback whales are migratory. They spend their summers in cooler, high-latitude waters like Ucluelet where there is plenty of food. They migrate to tropical and subtropical areas for mating and calving. The Humpback whales we see in Ucluelet in the summer months are coming from Hawaii and surrounding areas. They are known to make an annual migration of up to 25,000 kilometres! Now that is a well traveled whale!

They come here to feed on krill and small schooling baitfish like herring and pilchard. There are several runs of baitfish that push through Barkley Sound, just outside of Ucluelet. Lucky for us, this means we get to see a good population of Humpback whales every season. They are baleen whales. They feed by driving schools of little fish towards the surface of the water. Sometimes they create 'bubble nets" by blowing bubbles in a circle, then come up on the fish, taking in a literal bus-load of water and feed through their open mouths. Then they filter the water out of their mouths leaving scores of food in their baleen and in their mouths. This allows them to swallow thousands of fish in one gulp.

This style of feeding is often called lunge feeding. We often see Humpback whales come up to the surface with their mouths open wide, slamming their jaws together at the surface to begin draining the access water out of their mouths. It is an incredible sight! Check out this photo from National Geographic:

They have to eat A LOT of food while they are here in Ucluelet. When they return to their warm and protected breeding grounds, they will fast for the entire winter and live off of their fat reserves.

Have you ever seen a Humpback whale? Although we enjoying sightings so late in the season, the best time to go Whale Watching is in the spring and summer months. Plan your west coast adventure holiday ahead of time and book your Whale Watching Tour now. Click here for reservations.

We can’t wait to see you again!