This Blog was written by Erica Page who has joined Whale Point as in Intern for the 2015 Season - this was her first ever experience of seeing an Orca!!
I am still trying to process the events that took place this morning. I have been here on Gil Island a little over a week and when I woke up, I just had this weird feeling that today would be the day I would see an orca. We all gathered in the lab around 7 this morning to have coffee before the day started. I mentioned that I had an orca feeling today and oddly enough, Hermann said he had the same feeling when he woke up this morning. We got skeptic looks from everyone, saying we may have cursed it.
Well we didn’t!! I took the first shift of the day at 8am and after only about 45 minutes there was a call on the radio from one of the Gitga'at staying at the seeweed/halibut camp in Kiel telling us they had spotted killer whales! Here at Cetacea Lab when an orca report comes in, Hermann runs to the boat and one or two interns get to join him. We have to drop everything we are doing and get to the boat first in order to go out. A new intern, Kara, arrived yesterday so she volunteered to stay behind to do some training with Janie, and Carolyn and I got to go on the boat.
It only took about twenty minutes for us to spot huge black dorsal fins in the distance. As we got closer, I had an intensely emotional reaction that I was not expecting. When I saw the whales, I lost it. I just sat on the boat and cried and cried.
When it comes to whales, humpbacks have always been “my whale,” but seeing the killer whales today was unlike anything I have ever experienced. They are so mesmerizing, almost hypnotic. Apart from my niece and nephews, they were easily the most beautiful things I have ever seen. The whales were just the epitome of freedom and grace and I was so moved by them. I didn’t bring my camera on the boat with me, but I felt fortunate to be able to watch the whales with my own eyes, rather than through a lens.
There were two males with huge dorsal fins that stood straight up, nearly six feet tall. There were also three or four females with much smaller, curved dorsals, and one small whale that was probably a calf. At some points they were so close to the boat you could see their black and white patterns and the little notches on their fins. The sun was just right so they were glistening. It was magical.
Researchers have discovered that killer whales have extra parts in their brains that humans do not have. While they are not totally sure what the function of the extra parts are, it is believed that they have to do with empathy and compassion. Orcas have the strongest family bond of any other animal, including humans. They stay together for life and are thought to feel each other’s pain and joy. In fact, some think they have intelligence so advanced that humans don’t even have the capacity to comprehend it.
After cruising along side the whales for a while, it was time to turn around and come back to the lab. On the way back, we stopped at what is known as Sea Lion Rock and I was amazed for the second time of the day. There were easily 100, maybe 200 sea lions hauled out on the rock. There were five or six males that were at least four times as big as the rest of the sea lions and they were almost comically large. The males were these huge blubbery creatures that looked like fat worms moving around on the rocks. And the noises they made were unlike anything I’ve ever heard -- they made these really loud, long grunting sounds that sounded sort of like a hundred cows mooing at the same time. It was so fascinating and I could have watched them all day.
Eventually though, we made our way back to the lab and when I stepped off the boat I realized my whole body was vibrating with adrenaline and excitement. I tried explaining what I had experienced to Janie but words failed me. I needed a few minutes alone to come down off my high, so now I am sitting in my tent trying to get my hands to stop shaking.
I still can’t believe the way that I woke up knowing I’d see orcas today. I am trying to rationalize it but all I can think is that the energy surrounding the entire area is just interconnected and I somehow sensed their presence. This place feels magical to me and I feel so fortunate to be a tiny piece of the movement to protect this area.
It is barely noon now and I still have the whole day ahead of me. What a life!