Orca in the Salish Sea between Canada and the USA

Published: June 25th 2019
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Close to the US coastline
Sunday 23rd June 2019

Eleven intrepid travellers and one sea captain, set forth for three and a half hours this morning to navigate eighty-eight kilometres of ocean, in search of Killer Whales. The captain was Jimmy, a marine biologist from Victoria and the passengers comprised of five German tourists, four Canadians and John and myself (two brave Brits paying cheaper “Senior” rates). Our craft was a fast twelve-seater Zodiac, the only one on the west coast that has six double seats and a walk around edge, so everyone can stand up (if they really must) and everyone has a “window” seat (well they would if there were windows but the Zodiac is an open inflatable-rib boat); a great craft for close-up views of marine life. One doesn’t just don life jackets to get on board, we were kitted out with full survival suits that inflate on impact with the water. The trip was classed as one for “thrill seekers”! Why were we doing this on a Sunday morning?” Pass!

We set off quite leisurely heading north east towards Vancouver but the Orca were not there this morning; we saw a large sea lion sunning himself on a rock, but none of the whales wanted him for breakfast today, so Jimmy changed direction heading south and we were treated with a great view of the snow-capped peaks of Washington’s Olympic Peninsular (USA). A large pod of Orca, were heading slowly south into US waters and we were following them.

Canada passed a new law on 1st June, forbidding craft to get closer than 400 metres from wild Orca pods, so armed with binoculars and zoom lenses we were able to see evidence of them from a distance (fins, splashes and one or two tail displays) but we were rather envious of the US craft who were right up close to these magnificent creatures. Actually, opinion is very divided on this new law. Jimmy maintains that he and his fellow sailors have always respected the Orca and put their well-being before thrills for tourists; they have never hassled or distressed the animals. He pointed out that if the Orca were unhappy with the proximity of these US craft, they would simply dive and surface far away out of camera-range from anyone. There is a big ocean out there and these Orca, mainly resident in Canadian waters, will easily travel over one hundred nautical miles each day if they choose. We have to say, Jimmy’s view was born out pretty well by the fact that as soon as the US craft headed home to port, the Orca headed our way. They came to us! In a short space of time, we were in the centre of a pod of about twenty animals and one mother brought her calf within two metres of our Zodiac. What a great thrill that was! On the down-side, the swell was so great out on the Salish Sea off the US coast that for the first time in my life I felt seasick. I managed to resist spewing over the side but had to sit down and forego my duty with the Gopro so missed some great video. Jimmy assured me that once we got going again, I would be OK with the speed of the boat rather than the rocking! He was right; by the time we returned back into Canadian waters and the shelter of a small island bay I felt much better. Humpbacks often pass by there but they didn’t today.

Now the fun began! The journey back across the sea to
harbour. Jimmy warned us that since the westerly winds had increased considerably (and indeed they had) we had a hard and bumpy twenty-minute ride back to port. I have never wished to die before, but I did in those twenty minutes! I was way outside of my comfort zone; we were bumped up and down so much and soaked by spray that I felt as though I couldn’t breathe. My chest actually hurt! It still aches a bit, as though bruised. Scary ride! The two youngest passengers, late teens or maybe early twenties, who started off yelling and waving hands in the air as we bumped along, soon became quiet as we all just clung on! They, by the way, were the first on the boat that morning and sat at the back! John called them wimps! I wish we had been at the back! At least we were not in the front row (third back out of six). It always bumps more up front. We had planned to walk around the city some more this afternoon but instead, we just went back to the hotel and crashed. But, “Hey!” It was worth it and we are OK. We have
the colour back in our cheeks this evening! To be just a few metres from large wild Killer Whales is an experience we shall always treasure. I don’t think I need another Pacific ride on a Zodiac again, however!

A message for you Trumpy-Boy down there in Trumpton: you had two “Illegals” across your border today! John and I do not have US visas. However, we didn’t set foot ashore and also, we can assure you that we are not criminal drug-dealers and the twenty or so Canadian Orcas confirm that they are not criminals either (well they do steal a few of your seals now and again). Please don’t worry your blond hairpiece about it because it might be a tad difficult to string a wall across the Salish Sea anyway!

Tomorrow we are getting a ferry across these same waters, to Vancouver, so as usual, we shall hog space at the rail in the hope of seeing more wildlife. Our species count of Canadian mammals is now twenty-one. This has more than surpassed our hopes and expectations. Oh! we do love Canada!

Additional photos below
Photos: 18, Displayed: 18


25th June 2019

Senior Brit “Thrill Seekers”......
RESPECT!!!!! xx
25th June 2019

27th June 2019

Hi Viv and John Amazing pictures and so lovely to get so close. As a person who suffers from seasickness you have my sympathy. I was even sick on a big cruiser in the lagoon in Venice and had to endure a coach trip back to the hotel so I know exactly how you felt. LoveBarb and Dave xx
29th June 2019

What an adventure! One of those events, scarey at the time but wonderful in memory. It was such a pleasure to read. I hope the journey home was uneventful. Please keep in touch. Doreen

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