Thursday, September 24, 2009

An Evening in Victoria, B.C.

During our World Bird Sanctuary Alaska cruise, my husband and I spent an evening in beautiful Victoria, British Columbia. 
We did not have much time in the city, due to the cruise ship’s schedule, but there was enough time for an orca whale watch that evening.  We took a smallish boat (could only carry 50 people max) out into the surrounding waters to see if we could find any of the beautiful creatures.  
On the way out of the harbor, we learned that Victoria’s airport is right off the bay and planes have to come in low over the water to hit the runway.  There was one day several years earlier when a couple of orcas wandered into the bay.  The protection laws for these marine mammals says that you cannot come within a certain distance of them, otherwise it is considered harassment.  Well, since the orcas were in the bay, and the planes had to fly right over the bay, no planes were allowed to take off or land.  This means that Victoria’s airport has the distinction of being the only international airport to be shut down due to orcas on the runway!!
While out on the watch, we were worried that we might not get to see any orcas, since they are wild animals and don’t necessarily run on our schedules!  Well, that fear was wiped out completely and utterly when we almost ran into not just a few, but all three local pods that were feeding in the same area!  There were over 90 orcas surrounding us!  The captain immediately cut the engines when we realized how close we were and we drifted in the rough water.  
It just so happened that our drift and the orcas journey intersected!  They were everywhere – one even spy-hopped right next to our boat to check us out!  It was the most incredible sight – they were so big, beautiful and majestic.  There was even a calf, but mom kept it a fairly good distance away.  They drifted and swam around us for about 45 - 60 minutes, and then they headed off to their own destination. 
This was the last stop on our cruise and it was the icing on the cake for us.  I’ve never seen an orca in the wild and I will never forget their beauty.  Wow!
Submitted by Laura MacLeod, Education Coordinator, World Bird Sanctuary

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