On June 27th, 2023, we were lucky enough to have a rare and astonishing encounter with not one, but six humpbacks.
As one of the only boats out at 12pm that day, we travelled towards Nanaimo where there were reports of humpback whales from earlier that morning. The reports were hours old at that point, so we weren't certain if the whales were still in the area. As we slowed the boat and peeled our eyes across the crystal blue water, a passenger spotted a fluke in the distance!
One fluke turned into two, and as we approached, it became clear there were at least six humpbacks spending time together. We were thrilled to see six humpbacks in one spot, as seeing groups of two or three is much more common. Scientists once believed that humpbacks were entirely solitary animals, but it's encounters like these in the Salish Sea that are shifting those perspectives.
All of the whales were curious, and they approached the boat to have a closer look and interact with us. This behavior is called "mugging," and it's very rare. We don't encourage this behavior, as we don't want our wild whales to become too comfortable with boats, but they were determined to give us a show. While following all regulations and maintaining a distance, we cut our engines and decided to wait it out.
The whales that we were able to ID were Pingu (BCY1110), Mammoth/Ocean (BCX1710), Ocular (BCX1705), Schooner (BCX1199), Graze's 2019 calf (BCY0523 calf 2019), and Zephyr's 2021 calf (BCZ0414 calf 2021). They fluked, slapped their pectorals, spun upside down, spy-hopped, and spent surface time looking at the awe-struck passengers.
After both whales and passengers were exhausted from the excitement, all six humpbacks decided to say farewell and began travelling west, while we departed southeast back towards Richmond. It was an extraordinary whale watching experience that everyone on board will remember forever!
Thanks to all who joined Captain Rick and Naturalist Jade. Some photos/videos were taken using a camera with a telescopic lens and cropping. Thanks to passenger Michael C for the fantastic photos!