Victoria: Wandering and Whale Watching (not simultaneously)
Yesterday, I wrote that I had something special planned for today. You’ve probably now guessed what it was from the title of this entry. I enjoyed the wandering, but no, that’s not it. I do a lot of wandering often.
The special activity was a whale watching tour. The tour was on a boat. The boat ventured out on the sea, primarily to look for whales. You probably guessed all of that, but this post will likely be short, so I wanted to pad it a little. I’d feel guilty if you didn’t get your full money’s worth.
But first, the wandering.
Today’s wandering was a little less aimless than yesterday’s wandering. Today, I started out with a general area of town in mind. Once I entered that area, I switched to aimless wandering within it because I wouldn’t want my life to have a purpose for any more than fifteen or so minutes at a time. That would be too purposeful for me.
My target area was the retail section of downtown.
I’m a city boy at heart. As anyone who knows me knows, that’s a lie. I’m a city guy, true, but an older gentleman, not a boy.
Alright, the “gentleman” part is debatable. But not the “older” part.
Then again, if any 110-year-olds read this, they might debate the older part too. I’m not that old. But how many 110-year-olds a) surf the worldwide interwebs thingy, and b) will find this site? Probably not many. So, I don’t think anyone will challenge me on “older.”
Where was I? At my age my mind wanders a lot. I think it wandered a lot in my younger years too, but I didn’t have anything to blame it on then. That’s one of the few advantages of getting older (apart from not having died yet). Now I do.
Oh, yes. That’s where I was.
It’s probably only because I’m a city boy/old guy, but I found the commercial downtown part of Victoria to have a small-town feel to it.
According to Siri, whose word cannot be questioned, as of 2016, the population of Victoria, British Columbia was 85,792. Again according to Siri, the population of my hometown, Toronto, Ontario was 2,731,571 in 2016. And that’s just the city proper. The Greater Toronto Area is, in total, something like double that of the city proper alone.
(Most of the very small number of people who read this journal know me. Consequently, I probably didn’t need to include “my hometown,” in “my hometown, Toronto.” But you never know when a 110-year-old who doesn’t know me will stumble on this.)
So, it’s not surprising that I find Victoria to have a small-town feel. That having been said, that’s not a bad thing.
I found walking around to be almost relaxing, even for me. And not much is relaxing for me. I should probably try appropriate drugs.
After a couple hours of wandering, I could almost say I was a nervous mess. This is a subtle, but very important improvement over my normal nervous wreck state.
The streets in the downtown retail area of Victoria are shop- and restaurant-lined, as the streets in retail areas tend to be. The buildings are mostly relatively low rise, as buildings in the central retail districts of small towns, but not big cities tend to be.
There wasn’t much traffic on most of the streets when I was there. One street was tree-lined. A few blocks of a couple of streets in the area were either shut down to traffic or had a lane blocked off to traffic.
The portable stanchions and barricades used to close off the streets/lanes led me to believe it was a temporary measure. Toronto has done some of that because of COVID. The idea is to give pedestrians and cyclists more room to spread out and restaurants more room to put out appropriately spaced tables.
Perhaps that’s Victoria’s thinking too. If so, I hope the city politicians in both cities forget why they did it and keep on doing it even when COVID is finally behind us.
I’m fairly certain the trees on the tree-lined street are as permanent as street-trees can be. It would be kind of difficult to plant and remove them at whatever frequency.
The company that ran the whale watching tour I took calls itself “Prince of Whales.” Get it? It’s a play on “Prince of Wales,” i.e., currently Prince Charles. But with whales.
Of course you got it. I almost didn’t buy a ticket because the pun was so insipid. But I did.
The tour lasted about three and a half hours. The company stationed a staff member in each of the three viewing areas on the boat. Rather than a disembodied voice over a loudspeaker, which was the case on another whale watching tour I was on elsewhere in the Before Times (i.e., pre-COVID), each guide presented a personal commentary and answered questions for the people there. (We were allowed to wander around the boat, although there was enough rocking at times to make that difficult.)
All-in-all, I very much enjoyed the whale watching tour.
Having said that, “whale watching” was accurate. “Whales watching” would likely have been inaccurate. We probably saw only one whale. It was a humpback.
A few of the times when the humpback surfaced (we stayed around for a number of surfacings), she came up far enough away from her previous surfacing that the guide, I’ll call him Austin because that’s what he said his name was, thought it might be two whales, not one. He wasn’t sure.
Unfortunately, she never performed a breach for us. I guess they weren’t paying her enough for that.
I used “she” and “her” above rather than, say, “it” and “its,” and definitely not “he” and “him,” because a few of the times when the whale flipped her tail, Austin recognized her. Apparently, each whale is uniquely identifiable by its tail. Austin identified this one as a whale nicknamed “Big Momma.” (I’m reasonably certain that humans gave her that nickname, not Big Momma herself or any of her cetacean friends.)
Come to think of it, I don’t imagine anyone asked Big Momma about her preferred pronouns. Maybe, she prefers something other than “she” and “her.” If so, sorry, Big Momma. My apologies.
Big Momma is apparently the largest female humpback whale that visits the Salish Sea. She mothered a number of calves, and is a grandmother to one. (I say “a number” because I forget the number Austin told us, but he did cite a specific number. I remember the number “one” as the number of grandchildren because it’s one less than two.)
Austin hoped we’d also see some killer whales (aka orcas), but that was not to be. He used “killer whales” interchangeably with “orcas,” but he used “killer whales” much more often. Austin said people on previous tours and elsewhere told him he shouldn’t call them killer whales because it’s disrespectful. He nevertheless continues to use that term more often than orca.
His reasoning is that they are whales. And they are killers. They eat more sea mammals than any other predators in the ocean. Hence, they are whales that are killers, i.e., killer whales.
(Besides, I don’t speak Latin, but if you use Google Translate to translate “orca” from Latin into English you get “killer whale.” So, “orca” sounds more respectful than “killer whale” only to the ears of illiterates such as myself who don’t know Latin. Either that or Google Translate got the translation wrong.)
Other Marine Mammals
We didn’t just do whale watching. The tour also took us to see a couple of other types of marine mammals: harbour seals and sea lions.
At the start of the tour, the guide in my section suggested that if anyone wanted to take pictures with their phones they should take videos, not stills, because we were unlikely to be quick enough to capture a good still. But we could extract frames from the videos.
I did that. However, none of the whale stills I extracted turned out to be very good. You’ll see one in the previous section.
My pictures of the seals and sea lions, along with one of a lighthouse, all of which I took as stills, not videos, were a little better. Some of them appear here.
Fortunately, the staff on the boat had fancy cameras with almost-cannon-size super-telephoto lenses. Within an hour after the end of the tour, someone at Prince of Whales had selected the best of those photos and both emailed and texted me (and, I assume, the other customers too, even though it should be all about me) a link to where I could download the photos. I included some of them above. You can identify the photos taken by the Prince of Whales staff by the whale-tail icon they put on them and by the photo credit I put in the caption.
Early in the tour, Austin pointed to four birds soaring above us. He exclaimed excitedly because, apparently, that type of bird rarely comes that far north.
He told us what type of bird they were, but I forgot. Maybe some type of pelican. Maybe not. I might have mentioned, I’m old. Often, I forget things. I think I also forgot things when I was younger, but I don’t remember.
I took a picture, but the birds may be too far away for even an ornithologist to identify them. And I’m no ornithologist.
Tonight I took a picture of the Legislative Assembly building later than I took one last night. As a result, it better shows the fairytale nature of the lighting. The picture is to the right.
The tails of whales wail mainly “Prince of Wales” (they’re royal watchers)
The tails of whales flail mainly between gales (they’re wind allergic)
The tails of whales pale mainly in the dales (beached necrotic)
When whales derail they fail to bail (that’s silliness)
An orca from nuyorca put a forca in some porca (of the sea), quoted Lorca, popped a corca, what a dorca, drank some morca, preferred vordca.