I was downtown chatting with a few friends when another friend joined us. He was very excited! He said he had just come off of the water and had come across a pod of Orcas! I immediately got excited myself and asked where he had seen them and how many? He said there were 10 and they were heading around Meares island!
I had to go around to 4 different whale watching companies to find out where they were exactly at that moment? I finally found out their location and knew where they were heading. They were in the north and about to go south around Meares island,so I got all my gear together and headed out! I decided to go eastward and then turn northward to intercept!
I figured they’d be in Fortune Channel by the time I caught up to them and sure enough that’s exactly where I found them! The best way to find a whale is to watch for slow moving boats but because of the pandemic there were no Whale watching boats trailing behind. So the only way I could spot them was to keep turning my head from side to side like a human radar looking for the blows!
When they surface they blow which puts a fine mist up into the air. That blow will “hang” and give away their position BUT If it’s windy (which seems to be more often then not) the wind will sweep away that blow concealing their location! I’ve had entire pods go right underneath me and not seen them at all! So If you go looking for whales hope that it’s a calm day or just look for the whale watching boats trailing behind.
I stayed with them for over 2 hours. The light wasn’t great but hey……they were Orca’s! One of them spy hopped (coming up vertical) to see what was going on around but because I was moving fast to catch up, I missed the shot.
This pod is known as the T069’s. It’s a category system for identification of Orca’s. This pod loves to come around Tofino! They are Transients,meaning they eat warm blooded animals,Seals, Lions etc The other group of Orca’s are called the Residents (Southern) and they eat salmon exclusively.
The Souther Residents are few in numbers (76?) because humans are eating all of their food! They eat just about nothing but Chinook salmon which is also a prized salmon for anglers. Many Resident Orca’s have died because of malnutrition over the years! Researchers can tell when they are starving because of the shape of their head. They get what is called “peanut head”. The fat reservers deplete creating this odd shaped head.
The only way to stop this group from dying out is to limit the salmon catch of all fisheries but as per usual so many fisherman cry foul! They want money in their pockets and don’t give two shits about any damn Orca’s!
Homo Sapiens are a species that is unsustainable. Until we can limit OUR numbers and live within Natures bounds we are destined to fail and thus perish.
Researchers have found the best way to ID a Orca is to look at it’s “saddle patch”. The saddle patch is at the base of the dorsal fin. Each is as unique as a fingerprint. They also show unique scaring. Sometimes chunks are taken out of the dorsal making them easier to ID.
I was having a nap when a friend phoned me & told me that a group of Orca’s had just gone through the harbour & were heading up into the Inlet!
Finished my nap & headed out in search for them. I didn’t know where they were,so I turned on my VHF to listen to the chatter. Didn’t hear much but when a whale watching boat zipped past me,I realized all I had to do was follow the Whale watching boats. I caught up with them coming out of Tranquil Inlet.
This was the T069 group. Not sure of how many there were,but after looking them up in my book,they are comprised of 6 Orca’s.(Rod Palm,”Adventures With Killer Whales In Clayoquot Sound”)
I continued to follow them as they headed into Rankin Cove. This is when the large male (T069C) made a Seal kill! The water turned red & a few of his blows even had a red tint to the mist!
T069C than dove & quietly disappeared…………….. he came up suddenly very close to me! (I was standing up in my boat with the motor off)It was coming straight for me! It was only 30 feet away! Than It turned slowly onto it’s left side (so as not to hit my boat) & glided effortlessly underneath my boat! As it went past,I could clearly see it’s large right eye looking straight up at me! I’ll never forget that moment!
It returned to the centre of Rankin Cove & than the group proceeded out of the cove. They continued along Tofino Inlet’s north shore to Creative Salmon’s “McCall’s” fish farm. This is where I lost them temporarily.I didn’t see them anywhere,so continued around the south side of Warne island. Unbeknownst to me,they had gone right & where on the north side of Warne!
I realized my mistake & went around to the north side looking for them & sure enough,reconnected!
I than followed them to another Creative salmon fish farm.(Baxter) They passed this farm & were going into Dawley Pass. I waited & waited for them to resurface but they never did? It’s as if they disappeared! Ghost Orca’s!
I waited on the other side of Dawley in Fortune Channel. The water was very calm & I could see clearly up the channel. I waited for 15 minutes & realized that they were gone & so was the light where I was anyways. So I called it.
I headed back as fast as I could. It was getting very close to sunset & I didn’t want to miss it! (I had stayed with the Orca’s for almost 3 hrs)
I rushed back to Tsapee Narrows & payed a quick visit with the Daredevil. I had lost all the good light so I could only shoot him as a silhouette.
Said goodnight & continued on into the harbour. It was at this time I noticed the full moon rising low in the east. I found a eagle on top of a tree & lined the moon up in behind it & took a few shots.
Whenever I do this,it’s kind of like joining the dots. If the moon is point”A” & the eagle is point “B”. I try to find the sweet spot………point “C”! I draw a line through “A” & “B” to find where “C” is?
Because of the tide’s flow & usually the wind too,I can only briefly pass through point “C”. Than I have to circle around & repeat.
Got a few good ones with the full moon!
Made it back into the harbour but I suspect the lions share of the sunset had already happened?
I went to visit with Romeo & Juliette on Deadman Island. Managed to get a few shots of them as well.
The sunset was gone by this point,so I headed back.
Had a unforgettable shoot today! One for the books!