What a day! We awoke at 5:30am to orca calls, then Hermann running from the house to the lab shouting ‘WHALE OUT FRONT, WHALE OUT FRONT’. The interns franticly jumped from their tents and ran to the lab, still in their thermals and gathered on the front deck of the lab. It was not an orca though that had caught his attention but the blow of very young humpback whale. He (we really do not know whether this whale was a he or a she) was slowly making his way into Taylor Bight, feeding just below the surface. In the back ground we continued to listen to distant orca calls from Squally Channel while this humpback whale moved ever closer to the lab. What an odd sensation to listen to the calls of one type of whale while observing the behavior of another so completely different.
This humpback whale was quite small and we all expected to see its mother at any moment. He continued to pace from east to west. With each pass he moved closer and closer to shore. We all stood on the deck of the lab, hot coffee keeping our hands warm from the cold morning air. Cohen, our young golden retriever, had made his way down to the rocks below the lab to get a closer look. Suddenly four acrobatic sealions were literally leaping out of the water, surrounding the whale as it effortlessly made another pass by the lab. The silence from the deck was broken by moments of “wow” and “this cannot really be happening.” To say we were memorized by the event taking place would truly be an understatement. There was no doubt that the sealions were trying to initiate playtime with this juvenile whale, but from the massive tail slaps of the whale it would appear he was not as keen to socialize. What was apparent though was the curiosity taking place between the whale and a rather excited Cohen who was literally hanging off the edge of the rocks. The closer the whale approached the more excited Cohen became. Eventually it was all just too much, he could not contain himself any longer and he just had to bark. We were not sure how the whale would react. Then another bark, the whale made another circle and this time he was even closer to shore. The barking not only intrigued the whale but also had woken up Neekas, the first whale dog of Gil Island. Now both she and Cohen were standing side by side on the water’s edge, having the whale experience of a lifetime.
The whale moved in as close as possible to the rocky shoreline to check out these furry land mammals, not a peep was heard from either dogs, or from us. Oh to know what must have been going through the minds of these curious creatures, those on land the other from the sea, as they became completely focused on the presence of each other. For us it was such an emotional experience to witness two completely different species encounter each other for the first time. I could feel my chest tighten like a rock as this very young whale ever so slowly raised his head from the water and made eye contact with both Neekas and Cohen. This was a moment that would forever be imprinted in our hearts.
This whale was probably the happiest, most content whale we had ever encountered. He was most likely last years calf and this could well be his first time on his own. Most mother and calf bonds last a year though some mothers will accompany their calves during the following years migration north. Considering how healthy and fit this whale was I would assume this was the case. There was one more pass by the lab so close to shore that we could see his large pectorals just hanging from his young body through the clear emerald green water. Then with a swish of his tail we knew this intimate encounter would soon be ending as he made his way towards York Point. Oh, but let’s not forget, that all the while we were captivated by this marine wonder R Clan orcas continued to vocalize in the distance on the Squally Channel hydrophone. We would now wait to see what this magical day, which by the way is Hermann’s 45th Birthday, would bring to the Great Whale Waters that surround the Great Bear Rainforest.