This Blog has been written by Amy Huva who spent a glorious week with us here at Whale Point with her mother Denise and friend Caroline.
The Heart of the Great Bear Rainforest – Written By : Amy Huva
I love whales – especially killer whales. As a 10yr old, I spent all my pocket money on a necklace with a killer whale on it that I wore constantly. However, most of the time, the killer whales don't love me back. I'm famously unlucky with whale watching trips and dolphin watching trips – you name it, I've sat on a boat for hours and seen nothing.
So I was trying not to have very high hopes when I came out to visit Whale Point this week. I focused on seeing 1,000 year old trees, on experiencing the Great Bear Rainforest, seeing the salmon run, and maybe some whales in the distance.
So far, we have already been lucky on this trip – as we were travelling from Hartley Bay to Gil Island with Hermann on Monday, he spotted a Fin whale and a Humpback whale from a distance. I got a photo of the Humpback whale's tail with a long zoom on my camera and was pleased.
I hoped it wasn't going to be too blurry when I got home and put it on my computer, and was excited because it was the first time I'd ever seen a Humpback whale in real life.
This morning, our first full day on the island, we went down after breakfast to the lab to watch a group of Humpback whales feeding in the distance between Princess Royal Island and Ashdown Island. If we looked through binoculars, we could just see that there was a mother and a calf in the group of about 3 or 4 Humpback whales.
Later, after getting some coffee in the house, we were setting out towards the creek to see where the salmon run when someone made a comment that they thought the mother and calf Humpback whales were swimming towards Whale Point. No sooner had the comment been made, we heard a crash out on the water and Hermann shouted 'oh wow! The mother just breached!'
We rushed further down the rocky beach towards the water and I suddenly saw the Humpback whale jump up and out of the water, and land with a huge crash on her back.
It seemed to be a mother-daughter breaching class. The mother whale would jump up and crash down and the calf would copy her. It was the most amazing sight – seeing these huge mammals put on such a display and hearing the seriously loud boom as they landed on the water, or the clap as they slammed their fins down playing on the water.
They were playing around – rolling over in the water and waving their fins in the air, slapping their tails down, leaping out of the water, with the calf following and copying her mother the whole time as they moved across the bay we were standing in.
It was so phenomenal – watching something from the shore that I've only ever seen in a documentary, experiencing it and feeling the power and pure strength it must take to get such a huge body out of the water like that. Seeing the whales smack down on the surface and then hearing the slightly delayed boom as the speed of sound caught up to where we were standing.
It's only our second day here, but so far it's already been magical experiencing the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest in all it's glory.
Her story continues in the Vancouver Observer - LInk Below
This Journel Enrty was written by a young girl who was staying with us at Whale Point. Her name is Maddie Picard and this is her experience on the water with an amazing group of humpback whales bubble net feeding. Please watch the vidoe below as well - it is truly inspirational!!
On August 21st 2013 we spotted a group of 5 humpback whales by Fawcett Point, on Gil Island. We went out on our boat the Elemiah to see the whales. Once we arrived we realized the whales were bubble net feeding. There were 4 juveniles and one adult named Drop. Three of the whales were named BCX whales because the backsides of their tails are black. There were two whales that had completely white tails. They are named BCZ whales. Cohen, our golden retriever was on the bow and as usual was making some very funny noises. After a lot of feeding the whales split into 2 groups. The BCZ whales went together and the BCX whales escorted Drop as he had decided to leave and look for the large bubble net feeding group, which he is a part of. Then the 2 BCX whales came back and all the juveniles joined up again. After watching the whales for a bit longer we decided to head back as it was really beginning to rain hard. Here is a video of the whales.
Written by Sophie Scotter
It can be so easy to become trapped in life’s little tide-pools – many of us will embrace it, like the humble sea anemone, whilst others, myself included, will worry that little bit more about the return of each flood tide, perhaps more like a rock sculpin, flitting back and forth between excitement and trepidation. There are days however, when life gives you that little shake, and you realize that as long as the tides are indeed still turning and the sun is still rising, everything will always turn out just fine. Let me tell you why today was one of those days.
Hermann, Katie, Neekas and I were out on the water by 7am, after hearing both G and R clan calls on the Squally Channel hydrophone. This wide passage is favored by Orca who cruise the shorelines of Campania and Gil Island, reaffirming bonds, fishing, playing and seemingly very much embracing the to-ing and fro-ing of day to day life in these chilly waters. When we first located the 3 groups of whales, the sun had barely crept up in the East and rays of light plunged each dorsal fin into a beautiful silhouette as it rose and fell through the water, the vapor from blows raining down on these majestic ‘blackfish’ (a native term) like an angelic aura.
They seemed hardly to mind as we travelled alongside them and the sun soon became high enough to follow them as they swam slowly under the water, staring up at us with inquisitive eyes and displaying their ‘jigsaw piece’ white undersides, a stark contrast against the dark dawn water. Leaving the shoreline for a moment to navigate the protruding rocks, the whales approached the boat carefully and the following moment was truly one to behold. As the female dove, she turned on her side to cast us a glance as she swam beneath the boat, joining a large male on the port side as he too dove for a brief moment to show us his enormous size and beautiful coloration. To have such a moment of silent, emotional exchange with Mother Nature is extremely clarifying and for a second everything else, everything I could possibly think of, seemed totally insignificant as tears began to stream down my face. I was not alone, in that moment we were all on the same page. Each of us understood perfectly why we share an all-consuming passion for whales and why protecting them has become a part of each and every one of our lives in all kinds of wonderful ways.
We stayed with the groups as they merged and watched in awe as they hung gently at the surface, with eyes in every direction and juveniles running amok amidst the resting adults. They would roll onto their backs with pectoral fins and flukes smashing down onto the surface of the water, the sound taking seconds to reach us as they kept their distance and retained tight formation. Occasionally the whales would motion above the water head first in a ‘spy-hop’ and without creating so much as a ripple on the surface they would take in their surroundings before sinking gracefully back underwater. The whales spent over and hour deliberating their next change of direction, during which time we were greeted with the tonal blows of several large humpbacks that were cruising at the surface and could be heard for miles around. The abundance of whales created for a puzzling morning of not knowing where to look next – but I wouldn’t have it any other way. As we headed over to the coast of Campania, the I15 matriline signed out with an excited call that could be heard through the hull of the boat, and then they were gone.
Today the wilderness came knocking at my door and as far as I‘m concerned, as long as the dorsals are still rising and the whales are still singing, everything will indeed be just fine.
A Warm Whalecome Back
Written By Katie Qualls
It was my first morning back on Gil Island, the beginning of my third summer season here. I awoke to the sound of wavelets lapping on the rocks and a thrush singing in the salal bushes behind my tent, and smiled. Though it was very early, sunlight already lit up the east-facing wall of my tent. I unzipped it and stepped into a familiar and beautiful world. It was a warm, sunny morning. The morning light glinted off the small waves in the bight, a breeze gently swayed the hemlock branch that droops above my tent, a raven sailed overhead. I admired the place quietly, then quickly set about preparing for the trip Hermann, Sophie, James, and I would be taking to the Wall Islets that morning. Our mission was to visit the rocky point where the new out camp will be built this summer and clear a trail to it from a nearby beach so we could carry supplies there. Once we had organized all the food and gear we would need for the day, we loaded up the boat and clambered aboard.
A few minutes after leaving the Lab, several large blows were spotted – fin whales! The backlit blows hung in the air, glowing in the morning sunlight with the dark green conifer-covered contours of Princess Royal Island in the background. As the blows faded, huge grey bodies rose from the water, bowed, and disappeared again into the sea. Yes, whales are big. But their size never ceases to amaze me, no matter how many I've seen. These were gigantic fin whales. Giants among giants of the sea.
Just after we snapped some good ID photos of the fin whales, more blows were spotted. These were smaller, lower, rounded blows. They were the blows of three humpback whales. Hermann steered the research boat closer to the place we had seen the whales go under. Four pairs of eyes searched the water in anticipation. With the dull roar of rushing water gigantic open mouths rose from the sea, splashing foamy water in all directions. Gasps were heard from everyone on the boat – the whales had surfaced much closer to us than we had expected! Very close to the boat indeed.
We could see each barnacle on their jaws, watch their throat pleats expand as they filled their mouths with water and confused fish, see water drip from their dark baleen before the hungry mouths quickly closed and sank back under the surface. As the tips of the whales' mouths disappeared underwater a pectoral fin emerged, arched gracefully over the water with the bumpy, black and white mottled leading edge facing towards us. Some sort of brown sea creature or seaweed hung from two of the bumps. Fascinated, I squinted at the frilly brown stuff but soon the last bits of whale disappeared below the surface of the sea. I like that whales carry around their own small ecosystems.The foamy water settled, then was disturbed again as one of the whales came up for a breath even closer to the boat. Its blowhole sprayed a fine mist of water into the air which the wind blew towards us. We smelled the stinky whale breath and I felt some of the water flecks from the blow land on my cheeks and nose. I giggled, thinking of whale snot, but didn't attempt to wipe it away. Water streamed off the whale's back in wavy sheets as more of its body emerged from the ocean. The whale closed its blowhole and dipped its head back underwater as its short dorsal fin appeared for a moment. Then another blow slightly further away caught our attention – another whale had surfaced. Then the third whale exhaled near the bow of the boat. We swung our heads around wildly, not sure where to look as the whales surfaced in the water around us.
I refocused on the first whale we had seen. It took another breath then arched its body in preparation to dive. Its dorsal slid into the water, followed by the remainder of its back and then the base of its flukes. The trailing edge of the flukes lifted off the water, turning up to show us a dark underside. I heard the soft clicks of the camera as the fluke slipped underwater and knew that someone had captured a perfect ID photo. The other two whales dove also. For a moment we glanced at one another, grinning in our awe and excitement, voicing our admirations and pointing to the places the whales had been. The whales fed again and again, progressively further from the boat. Once we were a good distance away from them we put away the camera in its safe home – a giant yellow Pelican case - and continued our journey to the Wall Islets. “The whales say 'Welcome back, Katie!'” Hermann said with a smile from behind the wheel of the boat. It was the perfect start to the summer – a warm, sunny morning filled with whales.
Written by Kim Ly
Well, relatively tiny. On our way back from fixing the batteries of the Whale Channel hydrophone, Hermann and I had one of the most splendid encounters with a fin whale calf. Those at the lab had forewarned us that a mother and calf had been spotted in Taylor Bight. We located them soon after rounding the corner into the bay and turned down the engine so to not frighten them. The mother, a whopping 79ft. giant was travelling along the shoreline followed by her relatively smaller progeny. Resonating blows followed by her tubular sounding inhales echoed all around. Then, seemingly never ending glistening gray backs followed by arched fins – a diving duet.
At this point, I was instructed by Hermann to sit back and enjoy while he snapped a few photos of them. Minutes passed while we awaited their resurfacing. Positioning himself for the next potential shot, Hermann hopped onto the bow of the boat. Several more minutes of anticipating silence…. Then – BLOW! Both our hearts plummeted into our stomachs. The boat-sized calf had surfaced within 3 feet of the bow! Its sink sized blow hole was clearly visible, soon followed by its graceful dark body speckled with light gray with a bottom half already streaked white that glided into the water, which had been only slightly rippled until then. It was stunning in all the possible senses of the word – we were frozen in awe save for giggles and gasps of slight shock.
As the calf circled the boat for a second time - this time with a slightly larger radius – a much deeper and more tonal blow was heard closer to the shoreline. We looked up, only to be met by the sight of the mother lunge feeding! Her baleen were clearly visible as the launched herself sideways at groups of tiny unsuspecting prey – a magnificent engulfing machine. Over and over she lunged and soon her calf, perhaps bored of the awestruck humans on the shiny boat, joined her. Once some good photos were snapped, we sat back and let our eyes fully appreciate the spectacular act unfolding before us.
They remained in the bight long after we left them, once feigning their departure then reappearing, making one wonder whether they were tired of the attention. Nevertheless, their billowing blows could still be heard as the sun began to set over Gil. It was indeed an encounter neither of us is likely to ever forget.
The whales have arrived through out the waters that surround Gil Island, home to Cetacea Lab at Whale Point. Already humpbacks and fins whales have captivated a group of new interns from the deck of the lab. Resident orca calls broadcast from the hydrophone stations at all hours of the night. We are busy building a new out camp on Rennison Island, which has a spectacular view the west. A group of 12 humpback whales were sighted from the out camp yesterday and we were thrilled to recognize each one as a seasonal resident, seen year after year for this ritual feast. There was also a young calf displaying its youth with a number of breaches as mother fed within the group.
We hope that you will follow our journey through out this season as we spend our days listening to and observing these majestic whales.
To follow is a poem that was written by one of our new interns, Sophie Scotter.
There is a Place I Know
There is a place I know
Where clouds envelope peaks of snow
And salmon swarm the creeks that flow
This is the place I know
This place is blissful night and day
With forests dense and hard of way
And driftwood settling in the bay
This is the place I know
A wilderness fills islands here
Where eagles soar above wandering deer
In silent flight they draw so near,
This is the place I know
With loons and merlets surface bound
These waters are still filled with sound
From graceful giants all around
This is the place I know
For fleeting seconds they meet the eye
A breath, a breach, a darkened dive
And how to feel so alive
This is the place I know
Then came explorers to this land
With guardians lending a helping hand
To listen, learn and understand
This is the place I know
To listen to that ghostly blow
This is the place I go
Last week, the JRP for the Northern Gateway Project was in Vancouver to hear oral statements from the public towards the proposed project. Janie took the opportunity and presented her personal views to the panel. We would like to share with you what she had to say, you can click on the audio clip below to listen and follow along, or just read this for yourself.
Good Afternoon. My name is Janie Wray. I would like to thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today and to say that I am opposed to the Northern Gateway Project. I would also like to thank everyone who has spoken before me – your words were inspirational.
I am one of only 2 people that can I say, I live along the proposed tanker route, on Gil Island.
My research partner and I built a facility to study whales, there, in 2001. I was adopted into the Killer whale Clan of Hartley Bay and given the name Ksm Kli Gayse. This translates to “The Lady of Gil Island.” The reason I live on this remote island is my passion to research and protect whales. I did not know 12 years ago that I would be protecting whales from oil tankers. I am grateful that I followed my instinct, my destiny. I have spent more time on the water with this population of whales than any other. I have watched calves grow into juveniles and juvenile become adults, then watch as they bring their first calves back to these waters. I have witnessed social connections between whales that have lasted as long as I have been here – like us humpbacks choose companions through choice and not relations – Orca live and stay in family groups that will last their entire lifetime. I was driven to photograph and document each and every whale encounter from early spring until late fall, for the last 10 years.
As they say every picture tells a story. This is the short version of what I have seen, what I have heard. In 2004 I identified 42 individual Humpback Whales, the same for 2005. Then in 2006 something changed. That number began to grow. In 2011 that number had increased to 252 Humpback Whales and by the end of 2012 close to 300 individual Humpback Whales were identified. What is SO interesting is that the same whales are returning year after year; they are becoming seasonal residents. Something else took us by surprise in 2006. This was the first year we had ever seen a fin whale right in front of the lab.
They are impossible to miss, being 60 to 70 feet long, the second largest animal on the planet, next to the blue whale. For the first few years these sighting were extremely rare. Now, to see a fin whale is a common occurrence. Why this sudden increase in both populations? Since it has been over 40 years since the last whale was hunted off the coast of BC, and killed, I believe they are coming back home. They believe it is safe, there is plenty of food and it is quiet. This may also be the reason that the humpback whale has once again began to compose their long mysterious songs from Caamano Sound to Douglas Channel, along this proposed tanker route. If you are going to sing, or call out for your family or mate, it needs to be quiet if you want to be heard. Whales use sound as we use sight, to perceive their environment
Orca – both resident and transient populations have traveled these waters for 100s generations. When we set up our network of hydrophones this enabled us to listen to the underworld of whales, we were thrilled to realize we were in the center of an orca highway. We can follow these families just by listening to their familiar dialects as they traveled through Caamano Sound and around Gil Island from early spring unit late fall.
I would like to share with you a typical day on the water. On this survey day I am on the water by 6am and traveling in Whale Channel, close to shore, following 2 humpback whales – waiting to take an ID picture. Suddenly out of the corner of my eye I see something white – I turn and look and to my surprise a young spirit bear has just come out the forest and is now following the rocky shoreline.
He is quite young and most likely this is his first year away from mom. I decide to leave the whales and follow this little one. He is heading towards Kiel the spring camp used by Hartley Bay to dry seaweed and halibut. There is a buoy you can tie up to – which I do as I do not want to frighten this little bear. He is quite oblivious to me – what a wonder to watch as he explores under rocks then eventually wades across a small creek then back into forest.
I feel absolutely blessed.
Then a call on the radio.
The Gitga’at Guardians had just spotted a group of 20 to 30 0rca! The location is only 10 min from my location. By the time I arrive this group of orca have formed a resting line, traveling side by side, breathing as one.
They are traveling towards the shore of Campania Island in Squally channel. In the distance along this shoreline I can now see more blows. As we get closer I realize the orca are slowly taking us towards a large group of humpback whales that are bubble net feeding. When we arrive I depart from the orca and travel closer to the humpback whales – there are 12 and I have known each one for over 10 years - this group of whales meet here every season and feed together – this has become their tradition.
It is still early afternoon so I decide to travel north in Squally towards Lewis Pass; here I stop and turn off the engine. At first I thought I was completely alone as not a sound could be heard – then there it is – a distant blow – then another and another – soon I realize humpback whales surround me. They ware spread out from one side of Lewis Pass to the other.
As I travel from group to group I recognize 3 mother and calf pairs – just resting on the surface. Two of these mothers I have known for years and for both these are their second calves. They bring their calves to these waters because they believe it is safe. When humpback whales sleeps they float on the surface. We often call this logging as they could be mistaken for a log; they are so still. I have approached these whales while they sleep, in my boat - they do not move.
So as I sit and watch these resting gentle giants I ask myself – what would a tanker do on this day? To your right is a whale – to your left is a whale – in front of you are whales. Lewis Pass is just over 1.5 miles wide. Even in my small boat I would have a hard time maneuvering through this maze of cetaceans. A tanker cannot stop – it must move forward – on this day it would hit whales.
I begin to travel back towards the lab; along the way I sight 3 more groups of humpback whales and 2 massive fin whales.I am in a bit of a hurry by now, as I need to get ready to be at King Pacific Lodge to give a whale presentation to their guests.When I arrive at the lodge I am greeted by 25 extremely excited people. They all want to share their experience of the day of seeing a wolf, or a bear, a salmon, a seal, a sea lion, an eagle and of course, a whale. They were all vibrating with excitement and in disbelief that so much could be experienced in one day, in this one location. After the presentation a young girl approaches me, she is about 9 years old. She tells me about her experience of seeing orca for the first time in her life – she was vibrating with joy. I was so moved by her story as I realized when she arrives back home and shares this experience with her friends and classmate she would inspire in them a curiosity and need to experience nature for themselves. I believe this is something we all want for our children.
The potential threat from oil tankers towards so many different species and the livelihood of First Nations in this sacred, pristine and intact ecosystem is not in the National Interest of Canada. The area along this proposed tanker route is like no other on this planet – it is so alive – so diverse. That is why so many people have sent you their written evidence, their personal experience of this place, or have sat here, in this chair, and asked you, as I will now – please say no to this project.
HELP US PROTECT THIS LAND THIS OCEAN FOR ALL CREATURES FOR ALL PEOPLE
Thank you for your time today
Written By Max Ritts
A Whale Survey
Of course you love the orcas and the humpbacks and that movement they evoke: the rolling breaks and the wind riding the foamy hiss! It’s a grey August morning as we bank Squally Channel, a muffled patch of sunlight pivoting into view. Janie curls the boat to a halt 100 feet from the shore. Recording gear ready, I begin scanning the water for a pair of whale flukes.
“There she is” Janie calls. Click click click goes the SLR camera.
We’ve identified one of the humpbacks as Loner. As the name suggests, Loner usually feeds alone. “This is interesting,” Janie confirms. Within moments, a ring of bubbles begins forming on the water nearby. Salmon are being corralled from below and sent spiraling upwards. The ‘bubble-net’ grows bright blue and then two giant mouths, gaping-wide and fleshy pink, break the surface. “Whoa!” I gasp. Its not ‘magical’ or ‘majestic.’ Its strange, ponderous, and powerful. The humpbacks reemerge moments later to blow echoing blasts of misty air. And then they’re gone.
Listen to the blows, click below.
I’m sending this report from Cetacea Lab, a whale research station halfway up the BC coast. Back on land, I remain soaked in watery sound, immersed via stereo feed to a network of hydrophones drilled to the ocean floor. I’m listening to Caamano Sound 30 meters down: its aqueous stratum of warbles, bleeps and burblings. Most of my time is spent in the lab, looking through the window and listening. Jilann, a whale watch guide from Vancouver, enters data on the computer. Philipp, an engineering student from Switzerland, crouches on the floor, assembling his camera. Every summer, when pods of whales travel to BC’s coast from as far as Oahu, Cetacea Lab gathers interns from around the world to assist its activities.
My research encounters geography through the medium of sound, which I consider to be a uniquely expressive source for understanding the ways we shape the world and are shaped by it. For me, Caamano Sound functions like a gigantic resonator -- an area, like the inside of a guitar, detecting and intensifying frequencies. Resonators are not just ways of thinking about acoustics, but places, and the way they consolidate different frequencies of practice, positioning, and political economy. Powerful Gitga’at namings are inscribed into the lands around me -- conduits to worlds I cannot access. They are tied to the raven, eagle, orca, and wolf calls that also make this home. I’ve read stories of Spanish frigates sounding through these waters in the eighteenth century, and a BC Ferries vessel crashing to the seabed in 2006. One day there might be Passive Acoustic Monitoring stations as well -- remote sensors to guide supertankers around whales and shorelines and toward the open ocean.
I first heard of Cetacea Lab because of the Northern Gateway Pipeline: the tar sands delivery system that would transform Caamano Sound into a marine superhighway. Since the project’ proposal in 2005, life at Hermann Meuter and Janie Wray’s outfit has changed dramatically. Once a quiet endeavor, Cetacea Lab has become an outspoken part of the local resistance. Actions with NGOs have been worked into its travel schedules. Exchanges with Hartley Bay, the nearby Gitga’at village, transpire daily. Through it all, Caamano Sound’s fragile whale habitat -- harmed by increased boat noise, shattered by an oil spill of any magnitude -- has been raised to great political heights. My hypothesis is that our instrumental relationships with these creatures - how their voices feature in the voicing of our politics - is key to making sense of Caamano Sound.
Days go from 6am to 9pm, with visual scans every 15 minutes and data entry every 2 hrs, but so far as I’ve experienced it, whale science runs fundamentally on Whale Time. Whale Time means long periods of listening to nothing but empty signal. It also means kicking one’s way out of a tent at midnight to run to the lab and hit ‘record’. Humpback song can last for hours, and all the recordings and photos we’ve collected give Cetacea Lab months of material to sift through. Spreadsheet entry can make for long shifts, but there’s always the chance Hermann comes bursting through the door -- “Whales! Whales!” -- to send us all onto the balcony with binoculars and cameras. Moments just flow in these animal-encounters, counterpoints to the tight techno-rhythms of Human Time. Half-awake one brutally early morning, I heard Hermann’s big feet racing toward the lab before stopping outside my tent. “Wolves, Max! Wolves!”
Cetaceans of a New Age
Among the things I packed on this trip is a musical instrument called the Sensula. Its a variation on the Kalimba, the African thumb piano recently popularized by the likes of Grimes. My Sensula is tuned to a dreamy A-Minor Pentatonic, producing glassy shimmers and cross-fades when struck. There’s a fascinating history of humans attempting to communicate with whales via jazz flutes and guitars; elaborate hookups aboard floating barges. My plan to teach myself the Sensula was a bit of a self-joke, but playing it has provided field-notes for understanding the ethos that characterized those hopeful endeavors. New Age easily tends toward the shallow and self-indulgent, but I think its guiding message rings true - we are in a New Age. Big changes lie on Caamano Sound’s horizon: an LNG project will see more ships charting through in the coming years; counts of orca and humpback continue to project upwards -- with fin whales now among their number. Hartley Bay is planning a host of economic initiatives, but they all depend on stopping a pipeline backed by Prime Minister with a fondness for cruelty. Cetacea Lab is a good place to begin listening in. The dedication here is inspiring.
It is just before midnight, the sky is alive with stars and the horizon still hints at the spectacular sunset that left us hours ago. In the bay a lone humpback can be heard, blow after blow as he travels back and for forth, perhaps looking for a companion to share this evening with. What follows next may not have been the kinship this whale was expecting. A pack of wolves, spread out from one end of Taylor Bight to the other began to howl. We stand on the deck, listening to wolves followed by a blow that echoes through the surrounding forest and wonder if they may be a dream.
Have a listen for yourself below. We wish you could have been here to share this moment in time when wolves meet whales in an acoustic melody only nature can create.
I awoke at 5:00am hoping to get an early start with the day’s whale survey. At first glance I was instantly worried, the fog was so thick I could not even see the other side of Taylor Bight. We decided to just get ready and hope for the best. By the time the boat was packed the visibility had not improved one bit; we would just have to travel extremely slow. Just as we headed out I was looked away for just a moment to get my thermos of coffee out of the bag (I had not yet had my morning java, a necessary ritual). Well that was all it took. I thought I could follow the compass in my heart to find our way but was I ever wrong. I was watching the shore and thinking something is really wrong here. When the lab suddenly came into view I was stunned!
I was suppose to be traveling west and had accidently gone east!! That is how thick the fog was. I knew that for the rest of the trip I would be relying on the boat compass and any sign of the sun for direction; my gut was fired. We traveled for about 20 minutes then shut the boat off. There was no way we would be able to find whales in this thick, moist fog, instead we would rely on the exact same sense whales depend on – sound. So there we sat, the boat floating silently in the mist on a glassy calm sea. Not a single word between the 3 of us was spoken. The intense focus for us all was the same, listening for the sound of a blow. Within 5 minutes there it was, so faint we could just make out the direction. I turned on the boat and inched forward as the fog wrapped itself around us. We traveled slow for 5 minutes then stopped again, listening to hear if we were any closer. Within moments we could hear not one but 2 blows; we were on the right path. We repeated this method over and over, each time that much closer to the sound of blows. I personally love this method of trying to find whales. To depend only on the sound that surrounds us, unable to see, immersed so deep into the moment you involuntarily become completely unaware of any internal chatter, only the stillness - and then a blow.
The closer we traveled towards the whales the more the fog was burning off from the morning sun; this was going to be a hot day. The mist gradually parted way and finally we could see and there they were, 2 resting giants slowly traveling, side by side, in this soupy calm sea. We approached with caution as not to disturb them. It was then that we noticed they were traveling through a massive bloom of red tide. The motion from the whales gave the eerie perspective that that ocean was bleeding which naturally brought all of my thoughts to that of this absurd proposal of oil tankers bringing death to these waters.
After a few more minutes each whale took in a huge breath, this is always a signal they are about to dive and the opportunity to see the underside of each fluke was hopefully just moments away. The larger of the 2 whales fluked first and we were not surprised to see this was a female who last year had brought her first calf to these waters. I was so curious to see who her companion would be. Slowly the next whale arched its back, then one by one each vertebrae would bend forcing the tail up towards the sky. I was thrilled to recognize this whale immediately as another resident known as Specs.
By now the fog had completely lifted, revealing a perfectly sunny day with waters so calm the surrounding emerald green rainforest was able to reflect her to beauty to the sea. Time was getting away from us and we had to make our way quickly to Hartley Bay. Both Julie and James would be leaving today, 2 interns that had filled our days with laughter and inspiration. I knew it was going to be sad to say good bye to both. We would share one last whale encounter before arriving in the village. James had spotted a distant blow along the Gil Island shore. While traveling towards the location we saw a blow I thought I spotted a log floating on the surface. This was no normal log though, as it suddenly came to life with a soft exhale. Yes, this was a sleeping humpback whale. We shut down and sat in awe as this beautiful creature of the sea laid beside us, resting, breathing every couple of minutes, oblivious to the world above water. It is when whales are in this vulnerable position I worry about them most in regards to being struck by a marine vessel. Even as I had traveled towards this sleeping whale it had not budged. I wonder if these creatures live so many days without the emotion of fear, even after decades of hunting they still trust us. Oh to be a whale and forgive so readily. We could learn so many lessons from these intelligent and passive beings of the sea.
One hour later we are at the dock in Hartley Bay, hugging and saying good-bye. At the same time 2 new interns are arriving. As the ferry pulls away one last wave as Julie and James begin another journey back to their lives to other parts of the world. We pull away from the dock, another day, another experience to be shared here, where the sea ripples her beauty alongside the Great Bear Rainforest.