Whale tales to instill more respect

by Bradley Wolvergreen Thomas

There she blows! The whales are back in the local waters, and the seals are running scared. Just so you can get the feel for this, from our back porch we have a view of open water about the size of your hand at armís length. We also have only seen orca traveling past two or three times in the last 35 years, so watching five transient orca hunt a seal for half an hour while standing on the back porch was a wonderful gift. Mom and I saw a female jump 75 per cent out of the water in a roll, along with lots of tail slapping and surface speed chases. Wow! I have been dreaming about seeing whales in our local waters for years and get so excited whenever I see them that I want to tell everyone in Lantzville to stop what they are doing and look. I managed to get a few neighbors attention by knocking on doors, but many I have spoken to since wish there was a beach hotline for when things like this happen. Apparently the transients are here to feed on the local Winchelsea Island seal population, and the first victim washed ashore by the Huddelstone stairs. My nephew James found the treasure.

Friends of mine who run whale watching charters out of Victoria tell me that the seals down there have learned to jump right into their boats to escape the whales chasing them. They used to nervously jump onto the engine covers, but now they jump right in with the tourists and sit calmly amongst their feet until the boat takes them away from danger. Pretty funny the way animals will adapt to human presence, counting on our compassion to aid in their survival.

A British veteran of the Falkland Islands war told me of watching orca feed on culled sheep that were being driven by the thousands over a cliff with helicopters. Apparently the whales show up there every year for the annual spring cull. Watching live sheep being tossed back and forth between whales for hours as if they were playing catch, is a memory he will never forget. My grandfatherís generation used to shoot their rifles at them to keep them away, now we chase them with cameras just to be with them.

My friend Jack, while surfing at Jordan River, was chased into the shallows by a rogue bull orca back in the late 80s. It came through the kelp forest, around the boulder break, right into the shallow one-meter deep water. Head, fins and tail thrashing around within four meters of him when he finally got out of the water. Each of the five guys on the beach watching told me the same story independently, but no one will go on record because of the proximity to a secret surf spot location. To be honest watching them hunt seal here has affected how I feel when I swim at the beach, just a little. Not exactly fear, more like respect.

See you at the beach, it is there all year long.


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