During the Marine Mammal course in Bamfield I was lucky enough to go on a four day boat trip up the West Coast to look for whales. My project partner and I were doing a Humpback survey and the other students on the boat were looking for Grey Whales and Orcas. On our last day we headed back down the coast from the Nuchatlitz’s. There was an amazing coccolithophore algae bloom which made the water a very light green and we saw a variety of species that would not normally be so close to shore (including two Mola molas which was very exciting!)
We were travelling down and saw dorsal fins in the distance. They were small and hooked so we thought we had finally found some orcas (we had yet to see any all trip) as we got closer we got more confused as the fins were very small and the colouration was very unlike orcas. Our boat driver (the amazing Brian Gisborne) then correctly identified them as Risso’s. We were amazed! These tiny small dolphins, so close to shore, it was unreal. We stayed with them for a while just taking in these rare animals and marvelling over their strange bodies, covered in scratches. At one point our professor radio’d the boat to check in with us. When we told him we had just seen Mola molas and Risso’s he freaked out thinking we had gone ridiculously off shore and would never been seen again!
It was an incredible day of otters, porpoises, humpbacks and grey whales, but those Risso’s dolphins will always stand out in my mind as one of the highlights of the trip, the course and of my whale watching adventures.