AVATAR is now in Canadian waters and Mike and I are cruising alone, just the two of us, while Rod and May have gone home to the other side of the world for a much delayed vacation! We’re suffering the challenges of making repairs on the fly in a foreign country, but even a refrigerator breakdown offered a silver lining. Because we needed to find a refrigeration technician, we cruised in to Campbell River’s Discovery Harbour Marina and happened to arrive on July 1 which is Canada Day! So we beat you Americans in regards to holiday celebrations – as soon as it turned dark (10:30 pm here in the northern latitudes) I was able to set up my tripod and camera on AVATAR’s upper deck to photograph the fireworks display across the water.
It took a couple of days to round up a technician who could fit us into his busy summer schedule, so I signed up for a wildlife tour and spent yesterday on the water with Eagle Eye Adventures in a big powerful Zodiac. Orcas were first and foremost on everybody’s mind. As soon as we were all bundled up in our survival suits, reminiscent of the snowsuit I wore as a preschooler during Illinois winters, we zoomed off into the Strait of Georgia looking for whales. Fortunately the wildlife tour operators share sightings via radio, so our guide Jos already knew there were Orcas and in which direction. It was a bit of a gray day and the water was pretty rough in the strait. We pounded through the waves at high speed, although not up to the Zodiac’s full capability of 50 knots, and found a pod of transient (as opposed to resident) Orcas in the process of feeding.
At first the Orcas were milling about casually with some tail-slapping as they fed, but once their bellies were full they turned exuberant and soon we were treated to an awesome exhibition of multiple breaches. Even Jos, who goes out Orca hunting seven days a week, was pumped by the extreme athleticism these whales were displaying. My lucky shot of the day came when a whale breached right off the starboard stern of another tour boat, completely soaking the occupants, followed 8 seconds later (per the EXIF data on my photo files) by a second amazing full body breach off their port bow. I’ve shared the photo with the parties involved and it is already taking life on the internet and I’ve had a request to have it published in the local newspaper. At first glance it looks totally fake but I assure you that the only Photoshop applied was to crop, straighten and color correct. Other than that, the image documents exactly what we all saw – except for the folks on the other boat who were still peering off their stern!
When the Orca action died down, Jos took us into nearby aptly named Calm Channel in search of other wildlife. Bald eagles especially are in abundance. This slightly scruffy looking matriarch has a broken beak, but still heads up an entire flock of eagles all perched in the treetops surrounding her vantage point. In the forest canopy the bright white heads stand out like golf balls on a putting green and I counted at least eight in one go. Bald eagles are a dime a dozen in this neck of the woods. Two of them are hanging out here in the marina, stationed on signposts along the breakwater, to the consternation of the local seagulls.
After the Orcas, the other big game we all hoped to see were bears. Again shared information steered us to a black bear at the water’s edge, feasting on the mussels exposed at low tide. She was totally unconcerned with her floating audience and we were able to drift in for a good close up view.
The gallery below contains the blog photos and some additions, playable as a slideshow.
PS – The refrigerator is working again and we’re headed north for more adventures, and hopefully more Orcas!