Some sunrises are so memorable that they light your entire day, or week, with the same first that they illuminated the sky with. I was so lucky to be able to stop in at Radar Hill on my way to the Organic Master Gardener course in Ucluelet last week.
The stunning variety of textures, hues and tones gave so many opportunities for different angles and photographs. I kept zooming in on little details in the massive expanse before me. From the Mountains to the Pacific Ocean, my view encompassed everything the west coast stands for.
I couldn’t believe that I was the only person blessed with this view. On a Saturday morning, no one else was soaking in Nature’s beauty. Then again, I was thankful for the peacefulness. No engines, no voices, no footsteps. It was some of the purest Nature I have experienced and I am so thankful to have witnessed this event.
And a couple bonus shots from Long Beach, where I was not the only person blessed with this view:
What a joy to spend this evening with the T68B’s and T68C’s! On January 2nd we received the tragic news of J2 – Granny’s death. Within an hour, we had a report of orcas in Clayoquot Sound! Later on that evening we went out to find them. We almost turned back when we saw the tidal slop in Bedwell Sound, but I am so glad we stuck with our plan! The wind bit through your clothes and my fingers were frozen to the camera shutter, but it was worth every second.
We found them at Bare Bluff heading back out the inlet. Right in the midst of the pod, sticking close to mom, was a tiny orange baby! Later confirmed to be T68B1’s calf, this newbie was deemed T68B1B. The circle was complete and with Granny’s passing, new life emerged from the sea.
We stuck with the pod until they got to Welcome Island. The sun was down and there was little light to follow them with. Night was here, and it was time for us to return home. As always, we reported our encounter to Strawberry Island Marine Research, who shared the new calf photos to Jared Towers.
Scroll through to see the complete set of images from our encounter.
When talking about orcas in Clayoquot Sound, it is impossible to ignore the presence of T12A, Nitinat so frequently seen in our waters… Until last week.
On Thursday a male Biggs/Transient orca was found in Grapplers Inlet near Bamfield and a necropsy was conducted on Saturday. The whale was identified as T12A, Nitinat. Nitinat was seen in late August in seemingly good health. So far no word has been released on the cause of death and none was found in the initial necropsy.
I’ve seen Nitinat several times in Clayoquot Sound but my most memorable experience was in late Winter 2016. He was travelling with the T109A’s and the T41’s in Shelter Inlet. Nitinat was a massive whale and he made a close pass to our boat to check us out. His fin towered over where I was seated on the bow. The water poured off his sleek black body in sheets and he arched his back for a dive once he was satisfied with his inspection.
While the T109A’s and T41’s fed on a porpoise or seal he stayed on the periphery letting the females and youngsters get their fill. Afterwards he escorted the T41’s straight past our bow heading further into the inlet while the T109A’s travelled along the coast of Flores Island. We left them shortly after that with little light left in the sky. I am glad we spent every second we could with them, as this was the last time I encountered Nitinat.
With his magnificent size came a beautiful ripple in the trailing edge of his dorsal fin. It was a great identifying feature along with his other scars and the angle of his fin. That’s what I found made him easy to identify, there was a unique angle of his fin and distinctive tip that made his easy to spot from a distance.
Nitinat’s history goes back a long way in Clayoquot Sound. He was born in 1982 and reached 34 years of age. In the Strawberry Isle Marine Research Society’s “Bigg’s Killer Whales of Clayoquot Sound: A Field Guide”, Published in 2016, Nitinat is identified as the son of T12, Pachena who went missing in 2007 and is presumed deceased. Nitinat had a highly energetic sibling T12C, Vargas who was born in 1993 and only survived for 3 years. Nitinat was “the last known animal in [T12 Pachena] bloodline” but it is unknown how many calves he has sired. Seeing as he was being very friendly with the T41’s and T41As in February, we can hope for a calf late next spring – perhaps sired by Nitinat.
Whale watchers in Clayoquot Sound will not forget Nitinat anytime soon. I know I will remember him and his massive fin slicing through the water for many years to come.
A few weeks ago we left Ahousaht early to head to Tofino. I was on my way to visit my parents down island. I was so lucky to be sent off by a cow/calf pair of grey whales in Calmus Passage. They were so relaxed and slowly made their way across from MacIntosh Island to Coomes Bank. There’s something magical about just sitting on the water, engines off, and listening to the blow of the whales as they surface, and hearing the water slosh over their backs. I’ve never been more at peace than when I am on the water watching whales like this, where they are just doing their thing and we are simply guests for a moment in their lives.
I love the layering of islands and mountains in this spot. Its probably one of my most frequently photographed locations in Clayoquot Sound! To have the greys there too was just icing on the cake..
It was such an honour to attend the Sea Shepherd event in Alert bay hosted by ‘Namgis First Nations to welcome the RV Martin Sheen into their community. Alexandra Morton is highly esteemed by this community and it was a very moving experience in the Big House where the ships crew was honoured for the work they are doing observing and testing for viruses at fish farms in their territory.
I have admired Alex for many years for the work she has done studying the specific population of orcas that got me hooked on orcas as a child. I began reading her books at a very young age. Her studies diverged when she realized the wild salmon were suffering, and their downfall coincided with the introduction of Fish Farms in their region. She has been studying their effects for over 20 years now. The entire ocean ecosystem is screaming that these farms need to be moved out of the ocean and onto land.
Alex is teaming with First Nations on the Coast who have asked for her help with Sea Shepherd’s campaign Operation Virus Hunter. Science and culture are joining together to push for the removal of these farms from the ocean.
I have followed Sea Shepherd’s work for 7 or 8 years now. They have nothing personal to gain. They speak for those who cannot – Our oceans and the wildlife within them. They fight for all of us who do not. I am so proud to stand with Sea Shepherd and Alexandra on this campaign and particularly to stand with the Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw Nations in their fight to rid their surrounding waters of open net salmon farms.
(Sorry the photos aren’t in order – One of the hazards of taking over 2000+ photos!)
There is never a shortage of awesome things here in the Sound… I recently completed a one way hike on the Wildside Trail on Flores Island and found some great little details in the nature around me. Lennie and I also went out on the Sweet Marie and enjoyed a wicked sunset from 4 miles offshore of Flores Island.
I have been hoping to capture a pod of orcas in the unique teal waters of Clayoquot Sound, caused by an intense algae bloom. The bloom isn’t necessarily a good thing, but it’s beautiful nonetheless. The pod spent the afternoon milling back and forth in the south part of Millar Channel and mouth of Herbert Inlet. They were moving fairly slow and at times simply logging at the surface.
This group has been nicknamed the “Runaways” because they split from the matriarch of the T109 pod and have been on their own ever since. They are a charismatic group and I always look forward to time with them.
It’s good to have this crew back in the Sound. They spent a lot of time here last summer and even popped into the Ahousaht harbour one day!
We started out fishing but when the salmon weren’t biting, so we headed around Flores for some whale watching on the outside. We saw 8 grey whales along the coast but we were lucky to have nice calm swells in Cow Bay and were able to see one travelling across the mouth of the bay heading to the outer coast.
The sun and waves were spectacular and it was a great evening on the water! We also had an interesting flyby from a Grumman Goose plane in Shelter Inlet! The day was certainly a scorcher, but it always cools down earlier on the water. I brought my Icebreaker Crush Hoody and Arctic Zip Jacket. I love layering these two because the Crush matches the accents on the Arctic Zip and together they make an impenetrable layer of warmth!
So we were bear watching… but we couldn’t find any bears! But luckily Lennie found us a wolf on our way back to Tofino who was just settling down for a nap!
What a sweet and precious moment we got to experience. I mean, just look at her headrest! If this is the same wolf that was photographed the day before by a naturalist (Based on her markings, it appears to be) she is likely pregnant. Her tummy is nice and round!