The morning started fine and bright, with a mature bear seen on exiting Telegraph Cove. It was sitting in the salal, relaxing in the warm weather. A very busy morning ensued with sightings of Dall’s porpoises, rhinoceros auklets and harbour seals. The humpback whales heralded our arrival to Cracroft Point. Five were seen in all and we were treated to an amazing display of breaching! Of the two whales that breached, both were identified. One was identified as ‘Stripe’, a humpback which has been seen regularly since 2002. The other whale identified was named as ‘Conger’. This whale has been seen annually since 2009. The orca brothers Kaikash and Plumper were also seen in the vicinity, adding to the excitement of the morning!
Our afternoon trip had Kaikash and Plumper reappearing to the delight of us all. Kaikash swam nearby while Plumper stayed further away. A cruise ship steamed past us and while doing so, Plumper appeared close to us. Swirling water stirred fish to the surface, watched by hungry bald eagles. They dove and deftly picked their prey from the water. Cruising through Johnstone Strait, the characteristic blow of a whale was seen close to the forested shore. Closer inspection showed it to be a sleepy humpback! It surfaced slowly and exhaled gently before sliding below the surface.
We headed towards eagle’s nest to observe one of the parents return to its nest. It called to its mate to return before leaving its young. A male Steller sea lion swam past us, as did a harbour seal. A humpback swam in parallel with us and on each successive dive, began to move progressively closer. It surfaced to our starboard side and provided us with a magnificent look at its fluke. Due to its proximity to us, we were able to get good shots of its fluke for our identification. Two budding naturalists from Edmonton, David and James helped our on board naturalist Alison in identifying the whale! The whale was identified as’ Guardian’ from the MERS catalogue (www.marinesociety.org).
Harbour seals slid under the kelp as we sailed by and splashed noisily in the water. We passed back by eagle’s nest, watched closely by one of the adults who appeared to look down haughtily upon us. The magnificent silver grey sky was the perfect backdrop for some bald eagles that wheeled around in circles.
An enduring dream to visit Canada and a certain obsession with the creature they call ‘’Blackfish’’ saw me finally here today. We cruised out on the gorgeous Johnstone Strait with the able and affable Captain Wayne. Guiding and commentary were provided by the very knowledgeable naturalist, Kyle. The boss Roger also happened to pop along to take some photos.
First on the menu were a few Dall’s porpoises that whizzed through the sea in front of us. Birds of varying species provided us with some company too. Rhinoceros auklets rested gently on the water surface and rose to fly as we approached. The eagle eyed crew spied a young Pigeon guillemot on a craggy ledge.
On approaching a rocky outcrop, the ‘rocks’ began to stir and roll gently to reveal plump and pretty Pacific harbour seals. Their bodies ranged in hues of dappled cream to grey. The haul out had approx 40 of these shy seals. The breathtaking scenery continued as we headed into Blackfish Sound, home of the fabled orca. More harbour seals were seen lolling contentedly on the rocks. Suddenly word was in that a Leviathan was in our midst! Not one, but two it turned out, two humpback whales breathing on the water surface!! After some movement on the water surface the whales began their deep dives and we were rewarded with photos of their magnificent flukes. This was also a great chance for the crew to photo-id the whales tails (flukes) to pass on to researchers for population estimates.
If this was not enough excitement, word had come in from a local boat that orca were spotted nearby. Shortly after, we began to see some increased activity ahead. Five active orca were throwing some shapes in front of us! The pod consisted of 4 adults and a baby! We were treated for the next 40 minutes to an incredible display of tail lobbing, breaching and spy hopping. Camera batteries and memory cards were exhausted as we were given ample opportunity to witness nature at its best.
Exhilarated and satisfied, we turned to make our return back to port. It turns out the wildlife had other ideas! The Humpbacks reappeared and showed us their magnificent flukes as they descended into their realm. Cruising back happily, we were escorted by more harbour porpoises that bow-rode the boat. On our approach to Telegraph Cove, Roger spotted a black bear on the shore. The hungry bear deftly turned many boulders on the beach in search of food.
We returned to shore full of amazing mental and photographic images. The trip fulfilled my dreams and more. I will be back!
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