Laying in bed this morning, I could still feel the waves swaying beneath me. I didn’t sleep a wink, but then again it isn’t too often that your dreams fail to compete with the reality you experienced the day before.
Just a stunning view of the North Island.
Saturday morning started in Port Hardy. The weather was typical of the North Island; grey, wet and bloody freezing. I packed as many layers of clothing as I could in to my backpack, threw my half charged camera in its case, inhaled a hand full of chocolate raisins and headed out the door.
The road down to Telegraph Cove seemed longer than I remember, but roads always do when you are eager to get to the end of them. We parked up for the day, and headed down to the dock to sign in. Even as the rain started to pour, as we approached the boat we could feel the energy of everyone around us change; we were absolutely kids in a candy store.
As we stood at the bow of the boat prior to departure, we were encourage to take a moment to introduce ourselves. As I looked around and listened to everyone’s introductions, I couldn’t help but smile as I realized I was in the presence of greatness. It was truly a group of passionate, eager and insanely interesting people, and there wasn’t one person on that boat who I didn’t want to know more about by the end of the day.
Leaving the dock I had no idea what to expect. All I knew is I had never seen a Humpback Whale before, and that the chances of seeing one at this time of year was quite high. As we headed out of Telegraph Cove, I overheard Jackie say to another guest “you WILL see Humpbacks today”. As I looked out over the water I thought to myself, “Dammit Jackie, now you’ve jinxed us we’re not going to see one”. Luckily for myself and everyone else on the boat Jackie was right, and I will never question the Hump Queen’s knowledge of Humps again.
Within a few minutes of leaving the dock, a group of Pacific White-Sided Dolphins joined us. It was in this moment I realized just how spoiled we are living here on the West Coast, and also what a fortunate life I have lived so far, as my first thought when I saw the Dolphins was legitimately, “I’ve seen these before, move over I want to see Humpbacks”. So I gave my little princess-self a metaphorical kick in the butt, and decided to embrace the salty little acrobats. I took a deep breath, acknowledged just how incredibly lucky we are, and soaked up every beautiful moment with them.
Pacific White-Sided Dolphin swimming in our wake.
The Pacific White-Sided Dolphins continued on with their day, and so did our boat. We headed out past a couple groups of Steller Sea Lion groups partying on an island that I do not know the name of. (There actually wasn’t one point in the entire excursion where I knew where we were, and I am okay with that.) And although I have seen my fair share of Sea Lions since moving to Canada, they still hold such a special place in my heart and it was really amazing to see them.
Just around the corner from the Stellers, a small Black-Tailed Deer was feeding from the seaweed covered rocks. There were many moments during the day reminding me of how connected our land and ocean are to one another, but this was certainly a shining example of that for me.
Black Tailed Deer feeding off the sea weed.
As we journeyed beyond the Dolphins, Sea Lions and lone Deer, we all knew what was coming next: Humpbacks. Before they day begun, I had fully envisioned one single defining moment for when saw my first Humpback. It would breach over a rainbow and we’d come home and that would be it. However as we past the little seaweed-munching deer, I looked around to one, two, three, seven Humpbacks. They were everywhere. We could see them in the distance, we could see them up close. There were so many my brain stopped computing that we were in a unique situation, and Humpback blows and salty little hooked humps carving through the surface just became the new normal. By the end of the day I couldn’t really remember what it was like to look out at the ocean and not see some sort of large cetacean swimming by.
Just a lot of Humps.
During our Humpback encounter, we were able to witness a sample of their feeding techniques, including lunge feeding and trap feeding. Lunge feeding involves the whale “lunging” forward in the water and engulfing large amounts of prey. Trap feeding works similar to Venus-fly trap, where the whale “hangs” in the water with it’s mouth open and directs food in to its mouth with its long flippers. (Reference: Jackie the Hump Queen).
Humpback Whale “Trap-Feeding”.
As we moved on from the Humpbacks, we encountered approx. 30 Resident Killer Whales. Similar to the Humps, everywhere we looks we saw Orcas. To the left, to the right, out in front, we were surrounded in the best possible way. We were fortunate enough to see a couple of babies in among them as well, however my personal favorite moment was watching them rubbing themselves along the shorelines. Although this isn’t a rare behavior from Orcas, apparently it isn’t all too common for people to see it, so we felt very fortunate!
For more infomation on Killer Whale rubbing I will direct you here otherwise I will be writing forever – https://themarinedetective.com/2015/02/08/rub-me-right-beach-rubbing-behaviour-of-northern-resident-orca/
Resident Killer Whale itself along the beach.
After this moment my camera battery died, but the stunning nature displays didn’t. Upon our return we encountered more Humpbacks, as well as some Transient Killer Whales swimming among a group of Steller Sea Lions (still not sure if I am happy or sad that they weren’t hungry).
The whole day was utter perfection, and other than the birth of my daughter, I really can’t remember a more iconic and life-changing experience. Being around such incredible people, all so passionate and driven to learn more about our oceans was truly an inspiring experience. I left a little bit of my heart out there on the ocean yesterday, and I cannot wait to get back out there and just continue to learn more.
This whole trip was part of a fundraiser for the Marine Research and Education Society (M.E.R.S), made possible by Stubbs Island Whale Watching and many other incredible and passionate supporters. Perhaps yesterday’s spectacular experience, was nature’s way of saying thank you to everyone on the boat for choosing to support such a worthwhile cause. Whatever the reason, I am so grateful for being part of it.
Trying to sneak under the boat (the engine was off- See a blow, Go SLOW!)