Missed and Real Encounters: Pacific Whales and Wild Dolphins

Many long-time westcoasters hope to see a whale or dolphins in the wild at least once in their lifetime.  It is  not necessarily that simple by just living in Vancouver. You usually have to travel much further out into the ocean waters at certain times of the year. It would be at least 30-100 kms. out in the waters and still very often come back disappointed. Sightings of these mammals are not automatic.

So earlier this week, I was not around when a  baby grey whale swam around in False Creek from and later, back through English Bay. I had cycled much earlier that morning past Science World where the whale was initially sighted. The whale thrilled a ring of pedestrians by the Seaside Path.  Think of it this way: a whale was swimming through the heart of a metropolitan downtown city core and held up boat traffic for nearly three hours.

Jack caught sight of a strange object poking briefly out of the water from English Bay as he was cycling by later that afternoon.  He too, was unaware of this rare Vancouver sighting during the ride. It must have been the whale since he overhead two women among an excited crowd, marveling over the creature.

Yesterday, I was buried in downtown  meeting room all day and missed another rare event:  a miraculous  sighting of 200 wild Pacific white-sided dolphins in Howe Sound in West Vancouver.

In 1999, I first saw wild dolphins close-up on the west coast as a tourist before moving to Toronto.   I was on a wilderness zodiac boat trip near Skoomuchuk Channel by Campbell River, Vancouver Island. The boat operator cut the motor as we approached a group of 25 wild dolphins. We drifted in the water as we watched in delighted awe, these same enchanting creatures jumping and cavorting around our boat for about 10 minutes.  The same dolphins greeted us once more on our return back an hour later.

For live whale sightings, I did see a grey whale roll over during a B.C. Ferry cruise up the Inside Passage to Prince Rupert from Vancouver Island.

Bottle-nose dolphin. Maui, Hawaii. Jan. 2009
Hawaii whale-watching trip included several whales and this bottle-nose dolphin. Maui, Jan. 2009. Every January, mother whales gather in Lahani Bay to breech and look after their young.

In Jan. 2009, we saw alot more whales not on the West Coast, but off the southern coast of Maui, Hawaii near Lahani. Coincidentally we had booked our vacation trip right at the same time the whales gather annually  in the warm waters to breed and look after their young.  Unlike other whale-watching cruises, during our whale-watching trip, we had  two satisfying hours of whales swimming and chasing one another.  There were enough whales that the captain had to carefully steer the boat to avoid collisions.

Perhaps one day we will be there to see a pod of orca whales or another species on the Northwest Pacific coast. Or maybe I should visit the Vancouver Aquarium one day –just a short bike ride away. After all, I have been living here for the past eight years.

Interesting Reading:
Grey Whales Make Surprise Visit to False Creek. In Vancouver Sun, May 6, 2010.

Luk, Vivian. Video: Dolphin Party Enjoys Feeding Frenzy in Howe Sound. In Vancouver Sun, May 7, 2010.

Video.  (Grey whale in False Creek.) In Inside Vancouver Blog, May 6, 2010.


2 Comments Add yours

  1. raincoaster says:

    Spiffy video! I think I may have to steal that.

    What very few people know is there used to be a false killer whale named Willy who used to visit Vancouver from time to time. Greenpeace had posters of him breeching in False Creek right opposite my apartment building! That would have been back in the early 90’s.

    I knew the Olympics were going to be good for tourism. I just didn’t expect they’d be aquatic tourists.


    1. Jean says:

      Wow..a killer whale in our area, where you are, etc. The world can be small after all, and animals help make connections. I have not seen killer whales, orcas live yet. By the way, thx for helping us all on Wpress.


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