‘Genuinely excited’: Bigg’s killer whale delights onlookers in Victoria

'Genuinely excited': Bigg's killer whale delights onlookers in Victoria
Photo: Mark Malleson
Mark Malleson took this picture on Sunday, Feb. 18, 2024.

It was a picture-perfect moment for onlookers who clearly couldn’t contain their excitement as a Bigg’s killer whale approached the shores of Victoria’s Odgen Point Breakwater.

Around 2 p.m. on Feb. 18, coincidentally World Whale Day, Prince of Whales Wildlife Adventures captain Mark Malleson snapped a photo of the interaction. It shows T060E “Lynx” poking its head out of the water as whale watchers look on in awe.

Malleson was out in a tour boat in the Inner Harbour when he got word that a couple of Bigg’s, including Lynx, were nearby. 

“I hadn’t even gotten up to full speed, and I got a report that somebody had seen some whales off Saxe Point,” he told CHEK News in an interview.

He’s been with Prince of Whales for nearly three decades while also working at the Washington-state-based Centre for Whale Research for more than two.

“We were on full alert. I mentioned it to my guests, and we saw them around the corner on the west side of the entrance to the harbour,” said Malleson.

So he pulled out his camera.

“We saw them right over by Ogden Point on the west side of the entrance to the harbour. They were hunting a seal,” he recalled.

“They kind of went right along the breakwater, and I was watching from a distance the reactions of the people.”

A more common occurrence

Erin Gless, executive director at the Pacific Whale Watch Association (PWWA), says she’s thrilled Malleson captured the “magical” moment on camera.

“I love the reactions of the three people…You can see they’re genuinely excited,” she said Wednesday.

“It’s awesome that thanks to conservation efforts for seals and sea lions, these whales now have plenty of food and have returned to the area, allowing more and more people to have magical experiences like this!”

According to Gless, Bigg’s killer whales, formerly known as transient killer whales, eat seals and sea lions, which are “fortunately abundant” in the Salish Sea right now.

But it wasn’t always that way.

“…humans used to hunt seals and sea lions, so there was no food for them (Bigg’s), but since the 1970s, seals and sea lions have had time to recover, which has brought hundreds of Bigg’s killer whales into the area,” explained Gless.

“While the salmon-eating Southern Resident orcas continue to struggle, Bigg’s are fortunately doing very well.”

She says seals and sea lions tend to hang out on rocky shorelines, so it makes sense that the whales pop up very close to the shore — just like in Malleson’s photo.

More information about Bigg’s can be found on the PWWA website.

“They’ve been around a fair bit,” said Malleson.

“I’ve seen them a lot this winter patrolling the area. It’s becoming more common for us to see these whales coming into the harbour.”

And it’s interactions like the one at Odgen Point that keep him eager, after all these years, to boat around with visitors and show off Vancouver Island’s surrounding marine life.

“Photography has always been a passion of mine, but educating the public is great,” added Malleson.

“I teach people from all over the world about the whales.”

READ ALSO: ‘Pretty amazing’: Man captures video of whales breaching in unison

Ethan MorneauEthan Morneau

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