Two days on Vancouver Island was nowhere near long enough but I gave it my best shot, visiting the Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea, going whale-watching with Eagle Wing Whale and Wildlife tours and hearing about local marine mammal matters from Dr Anna Hall.
The whale-watching trip started slowly, searching the Salish Sea under sunny skies and a biting wind. Areas that had been brimming with humpback whales just a few days before now yielded nothing. Time slipped away, followed closely by the feeling in my fingers and toes. Then, a blow! Our first humpback whale, heading steadily east. Then two more blows, a pair of humpbacks diving together. Next, a small group of Dall’s porpoise whizzing along so quickly I didn’t even raise my camera. Instead, I watched the black and white torpedoes shooting through the swell in a flurry of splashes. Then, the highlight for me, southern resident killer whales!
The southern resident killer whale population numbers less than 80 individuals and is listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. The scarcity of salmon (their favoured prey), the presence of persistent organic pollutants in the environment, vessel disturbance and underwater noise are all considered factors in the population’s decline, so it was an honour to see them. Amongst the group was an adult male whose impressively tall dorsal fin just kept on rising out of the water, and a mother-calf pair, one of only a few calves born to the population in recent times. Massive thanks to Eagle Wing tours and Anna for such an incredible trip!
In other news, whilst camping in the ancient rainforest of Goldstream Park, I coped bravely with my fellow forest inhabitants. Paw-steps around my tent prompted only occasional outbursts of abuse and I slept through an assault on my bear canister entirely. Having seen my first live raccoon of the trip the evening before, I put the attack down to the little masked bandits, probably nothing to do with bears at all.