Incredible Encounter with Bigg’s (Transient) Orca’s – 14/8/17

I was making my way home after checking prawn traps and enjoying the presence of several Harbour Porpoises, who could be seen foraging around the entrance to Beware Passage. Evening was drawing near, bringing a calmness to the waterways between the scattered islands in the southern part of the Broughton Archipelago.


Upon reaching the dock, those of us on the boat heard a serious of loud exhalations coming from across the channel. There, rising from the calm waters, were several triangular sleek black dorsal fins. I knew at once that these were likely the Transient Orcas reported at Echo Bay earlier that morning, so we went to collect a few identification photos for the local researchers before heading back in for dinner.

I was shocked to see them swim a narrow passageway between two islets – one that is dry at high tide. It’s not that I thought they weren’t capable of maneuvering in such shallow waters. Rather, I had never witnessed them using this part of their habitat before. We parked the boat on the other side of the islets to observe them swimming amongst the kelp, with a scattering of rocks and small islands between us and the whales. Then they dove again, clearly on the hunt for an unfortunate Harbour Seal or unobservant porpoise.

And then it happened. These whales surfaced off our bow in one of the most incredible encounters I’ve had with Transient Orcas. There were no breaches, no spyhops, nor any intentions to come check out our vessel. Rather, in that calm stillness, the whales passed by us slowly. Black fins glistened in the evening sun, while the orcas surfaced just enough to display their brilliant white eyepatches.

And then it was over…. Just like that. We slowly moved the opposite direction and began our short trip back to the dock. Behind us the transients surfaced again from their long dive, now only black triangular fins in the distance.

This encounter may have lasted only minutes, but the memories will last a life time. All guidelines and regulations were followed -photos were taken with a telephoto lens and cropped.

-Elizabeth

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