Orcas, Humpbacks, & All Marine Wildlife: How Long Should We Linger?
August 9, 2017
High school was a weird time for me. You too? One particular memory involved our huge open air cafeteria. My high school was originally intended to be a prison, ironically enough. Nowhere in the building was this more evident than in the cafeteria. Well, that’s not totally true – it felt like a prison everywhere (swish!), but when it came to the enormous balcony ringing high above the cafeteria, sometimes it felt like the supervisors looking down at us should be holding prison issue batons. Or smoke grenades.
Anyways, this isn’t about high school, I promise.
Ever since those days I’ve had a problem with gawking. I didn’t like eating lunch with people up above watching my every move. Maybe I was a bit paranoid, but that’s the one time of day where the students should be able to relax and unwind without being under constant scrutiny.
So, picture this: you’re a humpback whale. You’re lazily bobbing up and down in the waters of the Strait of Juan De Fuca, chowing down on krill like nobody’s business, when a zodiac or cruiser boat floats into the scene up above. No big deal, right? After all, humpback whales are social creatures, and if the visitor keeps its distance and respects your right to a bit of privacy then you’d probably be fine with it.
What’s this? Another boat? Ok, so there’s a bit of company for lunch. They probably won’t stay long.
Such was the case a couple weeks ago when I joined an adventure with Captain Nicholas and a full compliment of hearty sea-going explorers. I didn’t expect to come across a single humpback whale, so focused was I on visiting J-Pod, the resident orca whales that live in these waters.
And I sure didn’t expect to visit three humpbacks!
The Human Perspective
Like we talked about a couple weeks back when we visited with Katie and a group of first-time whale watching adventurers, seeing humpback whales in their natural habitat was nothing short of a magical experience. Their tails sliding effortlessly into the water, their dorsal fins breaching the surface, the knowledge we gained from cap’n Nick – it was almost surreal.
And for some strange reason I’ll never fully understand I was brought back to those days in the high school lunchroom after several minutes.
You see, on one hand all I wanted to do was float and experience the natural habits of these beautiful creatures. On the other hand, I felt conscious of the fact that this was their domain, not ours. We’re the visitors here. And just as soon as I started wondering what the right amount of time to visit was, captain Nick piped up and explained that we were going to move on.
“We’ve had our time, there are some more boats coming in who would like a chance to experience the humpbacks.”
And with that we moved on. It was such a simple but powerful explanation from Nicholas.
We’re privileged to live in such close proximity not only to humpback whales, but the orcas that make the region famous, elephant seals, otters, sea lions, eagles, and on it goes. It’s our responsibility not to take that privilege for granted.
We only spent a few minutes with the humpbacks, but for me and everyone else on board, it was an experience that will live on forever in our memories.