Memorable ‘big animal encounters’

Jake is a Humpback whale who is a regular visitor to the Campbell River area.  He’s easily identifiable due to an injured dorsal fin, and loved for his personality;  A ‘chilled out dude’ as described to me.   He is particularly worth a mention for his visits to the nearby islands.  In this area, on rare occasions, the currents increase to an extreme.  In one spot this causes a massive whirlpool.  Jake will travel to that place and spend the day going into this huge whirlpool – being thrown around like a small fish – having a rest, then re-entering.  His private playground.

This story was relayed to me by the local guide who took me on a trip to snorkel with seals last week.  After hearing that I couldn’t resist a day whale-watching, even though the currents weren’t strong enough for the Jake Show.  But they were sufficient for something else quite gruesome which I was keen to see..

On a storm-tide, the currents reach their maximum.  At a spot where the storm-tide is rapid enough, and the water is deep enough, it’s a viewing station for seeing over 100 golden eagles.  The eagles congregate waiting for a rare fishing frenzy.  The bottom feeding fish are sucked up to the surface by the tide – but so rapidly that their internal organs explode.  Hundreds, even thousands, of these fish lay scattered on the surface.  And the Eagles spend their lunchtime swooping down and picking them off.   An unusual sight!

That was our first port of call on our day trip whale-watching.  There are about 70 Whales that traverse the locality, and about 15 of them were active in the vicinity.  There was also a large pod of dolphins so we were looking for both.  Our First Nations guide ‘Elvis’ found the pod first.

I’ve seen small groups of dolphins before, and it was an amazing experience. But 150 of them was ‘knock your socks off’ incredible.    The elegant speed and power of the group weren’t captured by my photographs, but I was lucky enough to film one fun-loving individual riding the motorboat wake.  Slow mo here from our Instagram.
At about 3 pm in the day, I was frankly exhausted.  A couple of lucky, sightings of humpbacks already in-the-bag and I was quite happy to return home.  But Elvis spotted a flute in the distance and powered across to it.  Shutting down the engines, we just waited for a few minutes.   I was looking to the right and then I heard an almighty ‘blow’ and two humpbacks were just surfacing to our left.  Everyone was in stunned silence.  They just floated there, perhaps examining us, then slipped away.   A wonderful end to a wonderful day…

A quick PS.   I’m told that there were over 2,000 humpback whales resident and transient in this area, in the 19th century.  In 4 years during the 1920’s they were wiped out by hunting.  Only now are they starting to return.

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