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Journal of Kings! (and mossy)

Orca Hunt

CANADA | Monday, 24 May 2010 | Views [672]

So yesterday was one of the things I've always wanted to do. It was on my bucket list and I can now put a big fat tick next to it. We went out whale watching in the Pacific. But not just any old whale, in fact to be perfectly honest we weren't actually hunting whales at all...we were looking for orca, which have more in common with dolphins than whales. Where most whales have a thing in their mouth called baleen which allows them to filter feed, orca have rows of sharp teeth which makes them effective hunters. Orca also have huge dorsal fins which whales do not have. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orca for more info.

So we arrived at Whale HQ about 10.40am with the boat scheduled to leave at 11 sharp. On arrival we get given a special suit designed to keep you afloat if you fall in (re-assuring...) which is similar to what they wear in deadliest catch. Pretty cool. We then head out for our boat, the Pod Pilot, and to meet Captain Brian. The boat is roughly 39ft long and open top. And green. Which is pretty much the colour I'm expecting to turn after about 5 minutes on the ocean. Luckily I took some motion sickness tablets and they worked a treat, I didn't feel ill throughout the whole journey, pow.

So we set off into the Pacific on a pretty windy, pretty miserable day. Mossy and myself are both pretty low with our expectations. In all honesty I was optimistic of a sighting but wasn't sure how good it was going to be. We get out of the harbour and start to pick up speed heading north, the sea was pretty choppy and the swells were around 8ft or so making it a pretty bumpy ride and we got DRENCHED from the spray (that's what we get for sitting right at the front I guess). Apparantly we headed north to try and aviod the wind...it was unsuccesful. Captain Brian had let us down.

But, like any good Captain, he bounced back and announced that he had just received news of an orca sighting just south of our position at 7.30am that morning. El capitano swung the boat around and set the warp drive to 10. Pretty soon we were cruising through the Straight of Georgia in pursuit of a potential sighting. Based on what they knew of how Orca's travelled they could guess roughly where they'd be so when Captain Brian turned his engines down we knew we must be close. It was thrilling, we knew that somewhere out there at least one Orca was swimming about and everyone wanted to be the first to spot it.

Out of the corner of my eye I see a black shape splashing about in the ocean, "It's there, it's there!!" I yelled. Mossy started laughing. It was a damn piece of flotsam. A log or something drifting down from the logging camps up the coast. Dammit.

Maybe 5 minutes later I catch a glint of something in Mossy's eyes. And a smile. He doesn't say anything. "You've seen something haven't you?" I asked him. "I'm not sure," he grins. I look out where he's looking and there is nothing. He's winding me up. The idiot hasn't seen anything.

And just as this thought goes through my head a jet of spray rises from the waves and a dorsal fin briefly breaks the surface. We've found the orca. Well, Captain Brian found them and Mossy spotted them. But here they were non-the-less.

At first they were very elusive. After the initial sighting we saw random fins popping up all over the surface but not very frequently. We guess that there's probably 3, maybe 4 orca out there but we're not sure on size or sex. The pod is slowly heading south so we follow them about 100m behind.

Then all of a sudden one surfaces about 10m from the boat (in one of the pictures you can see how close she was but the picture is terrible because it pretty much came from nowhere) and we identify that these are transient orca and the one closest to us is a female. You can tell because the dorsal fin is much shorter. I was gobsmacked, I couldn't describe how awesome it was to see such a huge creature up close and in its natural habitat. It was amazing.

After this sighting the pod became real active. We finally made the count and the pod was pretty big, there were 7 all together. Six females and one male (I like those odds...). As the pod becomes more andmore active at the surface the "naturalist" Kayleigh, who was our guide, said she thought she recognised one of the dorsals and went to check her notes to see which. Turns out that the male is recognised as T20 and is one of the biggest transient orcas in these seas. He's 8.5m long and his dorsal stands at well over 6 feet tall and has a square chink at the top of it. If you look on the video I posted on facebook you can pick him out among the pod pretty easily.

Just when I thought it couldn't get any better they started jumping! The first jump I was the only one to see it because everyone was looking the other way. I quickly pointed it out to Mossy and the news spread. The next jump was about 4 or 5 feet and the splash was enormous! Again, I was in complete awe of these amazing creatues.I tried to get a picture or a video but I was engrossed that I didn't want to miss anything, although I did manage to get a good shot of one of the jumps.

So after this amazing spectacle we had to start heading back, apparantly you're only supposed to stay watching them for an hour at most out of respect and we'd been there almost and hour and a half. Ooops.

Before heading home though Cpatain Brian took us to see some sealions basking on the rocks, they're all male. No females travel this far up, only the males do to catch a certain kind of fish. like a men's fishing trip. no bitches. I like their style.

Then as we were coming back home we got ANOTHER AMAZING suprise. Perched on one of the rocks was a HUGE bald eagle, the american national bird. It flew off so we followed it and it turns out there was a nesting pair here. They were enormous, the rock it's perched on in my pictures is easily 6 feet out of the water. The bird is almost half the size of it. Its wingspan was easily 6 foot. Such an amazing sight.

As we landed back in the harbour we got news over the radio that the pod we followed were hunting a porpoise and had made the kill not 20minutes after we left. I would have loved to have seen that. But still, at least I can say that I saw a pod of orca on the freaking hunt, out in the pacific. And that is something I am extremely proud of.

Big love x

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