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3 Orca Whale Encounters in Vancouver That Were Too Close For Comfort

October 11, 2016

This is going to sound slightly contradictory at first, but it’s important we establish some boundaries.

Like, physical boundaries. We’ve made it our life’s work to watch and document the travels of British Columbia’s orca whale population, but we’ve done so based on a mutual respect between orca whales and human beings.

We grant them their space as we float quietly in common orca whale habitats, and they swim past to say hello from time to time. On board an Orca Spirit craft, our guests are safe and sound to observe our marine neighbours in all their majesty.

But what happens if you get too close?

The Domain of the Orca Whale

If we spoke the same language, the first statement an orca whale would probably make to human beings would be a reminder that while we’re welcome to visit, the waters of the pacific northwest are their domain. We don’t present a threat (any more), so it’s no big deal to watch from a respectful distance. Truth be told, we’re sure that Spieden, a feisty female born in 1933, enjoys showing off for her land-dwelling crowd.

But that’s because the show is on her terms.

What happens when those terms are violated?

1. “They’re Totally Feeding There”

Listen for a few seconds to catch this awestruck onlooker’s description of a killer whale feeding frenzy on the shores of Vancouver Island last summer. It’s a surreal experience, watching the raw power of these animals during their most primal of instinctual urges.

And it’s an urge none would want to interrupt.

Video credit to Chad Giesbrecht & CBC News

2. Once a Year Encounter in the Heart of Vancouver

When a pod of orca whales, probably transients, was spotted beneath the Lions’ Gate Bridge last summer, it was a brief opportunity to watch the whales on what we loosely consider our turf. Have you ever driven over the Lions’ Gate Bridge? Or the Second Narrows Iron Workers’ Memorial Bridge?

I have, and this group of orcas couldn’t care less while they’re “chasing down seals.”

Check out the encounter over at CBC News.

3. Orcas vs Humpbacks? Hmmm…

Alright, it feels like the science-based theorizing comes to a close on this one, but this encounter from just a few months ago captures the imagination like only a deep-sea struggle between two titans of the deep can.

The official stance of scientists on this orca vs humpback encounter seem to paint the much smaller, though much fiercer orcas as the instigators of what amounts to schoolyard taunting.

Here’s the video and explanation so you can judge for yourself.

In any case, just as was the case during my elementary school days, this is a confrontation best enjoyed from the safety of the sidelines.

It’s obvious that Vancouver and the waters surrounding Vancouver Island are fair game when it comes to both orca whales and human beings – that’s why it’s so crucial each species treats the other with respect and keeps their distance.

The problem is that orca whales don’t seem to mind the occasional confrontation, so it looks like it’s humanity’s responsibility to take the high road to avoid unnecessary confrontation.



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