Monday, August 15, 2011
We had a close encounter while traveling yesterday that I can only describe in driving terms. We were proceeding south about three miles off the west coast of Vancouver Island (off Flores Island on our way into Clayquot Sound). The sky was gray, and the sea was almost calm, with just the mildest ocean swell; there was no wind, and we were motoring along at our regular 7 knots. We had seen many whales in the distance during the day, some we could identify as Humback whales, and others, closer into shore, that looked like Orcas, or Killer Whales. But nothing out of the ordinary.
Now here’s the driving analogy. In conditions like this, driving the boat is like driving on a stretch of highway through very large desert, at 7 miles an hour. The mate was at the helm (in the driver’s seat), and the captain sat facing the helm. We were chatting about something inane. All of a sudden, two orca whales surfaced just beyond the captain, at a distance of ten or fifteen feet. They were traveling the opposite direction, and it was as if they were in the next lane. The dorsal fin on the larger whale was probably six feet tall, and his back a beautiful black curve. Sort of as if a beautiful black Maserati were to appear next to your car without warning, as you were driving slowly through a very large, deserted desert…..
Always slow, the mate just gaped, speechless, and pointed, and gaped some more. The Captain finally turned to see the group – we think there were four – calmly surface, then submerge, then surface again as they continued their northward journey. There were several different fin forms, and several quite small Orcas, so we imagine this may have been a family group. The photo (not ours, but credited to a Tofino based whale watching boat: www.stubbs-island.com) does a good job of showing what we saw - only our whales were several lanes closer!