It’s 10 am and we are watching the third pod of orcas swim past our beach. To be fair, we only heard the first pod: it was too foggy when they came through to see them, so we had to make do with listening to them as they went by.
But as the fog lifted, a second pod came through. These ones, six or seven of them, were hunting just beyond the first kelp bed, and they surfaced and dived their way down the beach, and then turned around and came back. We were so entranced by them that it took a while before somebody noticed a baby porpoise, the size of a small dog, swimming only ten feet from shore, clearly taking shelter from the whales.
And now it’s 10 am and a third pod, four whales this time, is swimming past. As they reach the end of the beach, one of them begins spy hopping, thrusting its head and torso straight up out of the water, almost as though it’s stopping to take a look at us.
No. This is definitely not a normal day.
And it gets even better. As Del and I are pulling out of a beautiful little cove after lunch, we hear more whales. “Turn your boat around,” Del shouts as she pushes me out from shore. And as I do, I am confronted with two whales, not twenty feet in front of me, swimming right past the near point of the cove we’ve just been in. They are so close that I can see the kelp streaming from one whale’s dorsal fin. As they dive, Del says, “Start tapping! I have no idea where they are!” We both tap the decks of our kayaks, making sure that the orcas know where we are.
As they swim away, we see another whale, a lone bull, out in the middle of the strait. We paddle for a while, watching it from a distance until it disappears into Robson Bight. But just as we lose sight of him, Del spots another pod of three whales, far across the strait. “If we keep paddling,” they’ll probably swim across and past us.” she says. She knows that they too are probably heading for the Bight.
But as we approach Robson Bight, the wind comes up quite suddenly, and we realize that we better start heading for home: we’ve been out more than three hours already, and have at least two hours in a head wind to get us back to camp. I’m already feeling tired. For a time we fight the wind and the waves. And I fight my worry: I’m tired and not sure if I have the energy to get back without a break. At the same time, I don’t know whether the winds will increase further. Best just to keep paddling. I count my strokes, focussing on pushing through the waves.
Ahead, we see a fishing boat, which slows as it approaches us. “Heads up!” one of the crew shouts. “Whales right behind you!” And there they are: three more orcas, swimming right past our boats. We hear someone on the fishing boat begin to sing, a deep, rhythmic chant for the whales, and as he sings, one of the orcas starts to tail slap. It does a shallow dive, and as it surfaces, it slaps its tail hard on the water. It dives again and does another tail slap. And another. And another. We watch the whale swim off in front of us , slapping its tail exuberantly. I am filled with awe and delight. I’ve completely forgotten about the weather.
Indeed, the wind has begun to drop, and soon, the water is calm again. As the whales swim off ahead of us, we begin paddling for home. But for the next hour and a half, until we reach Kaikash Beach, the orcas stay with us, always out in front, but always close enough that we can see them. It’s hard not to believe that they were escorting us home.
As we reach Kaikash point, the three whales we’ve been following are joined by two others. Everybody on the beach has gathered on the point to watch these whales as they swim past. We paddle in, knowing that we’ve had the great good fortune to follow them for nearly two hours.
No. This is definitely not a normal day. This is one of those spectacular, amazing, once in a life time kind of days. It’s a day I won’t soon forget.