Orca and humpback in the rain and fog

“Look, there! 12:00 o’clock, straight ahead!”

The passengers stood up in one movement, eyes all focused on the resident orca that had surfaced ahead of us. Some days, passengers are excitable and loud with their oohs and aahs, but today we were still and silent, in awe, respectfully and quietly watching as several orca began to appear around us in the fog. The water was calm, and the rain hitting our covered boat and the water around us provided a constant soundtrack.

We watched as the orca spread out over Blackfish Sound, at times grouping up as if they were getting ready to form a resting line. We observed them as they got playful - spyhopping, slapping their tails, and even porpoising. Pacific white-sided dolphins appeared in close vicinity to the orca, surfacing and just generally trying to pester the orca, just like crows are known to do to bald eagles. Over the hydrophone, we heard the unmistakable calls of these A-clan residents as they communicated with each other. Slowly, they made their way westward, and we turned our attention to a nearby humpback.

Nearby Donegal Head, we watched a humpback as it surfaced several times and then dove deeply. Humpback whales are baleen whales unlike orca, which are a toothed whale. Resident orca eat salmon, transient orca feed on marine mammals, but humpbacks, with their small throats and hundreds of rows of baleen, are only able to eat very small creatures, such as herring, krill, and other small schooling fish.

Touring back through the Pearse Islands, we were able to spot a few eagles high up in trees, and then a pair closer up, silhouetted against the fog that hid Cormorant Island from view. I think it’s safe to say that today’s tour exceeded everyone’s expectations, and a bunch of happy, damp people got off the boat in Alert Bay, ready for a hot beverage and a warm place to peruse their photos of the day!

Hayley ShephardComment