Monday, August 10, 2009

"They Look A Lot Bigger From Down Here."

Last week, a pair of kayakers from West Coast Outdoor Adventure Rentals in Sooke (about 45 minutes up the coast from Victoria) headed out in Hobie inflatable sit-on-tops pedal kayaks into Sooke Harbour. They soon found themselves surrounded by a pod of orcas.
Check out the video. (The good stuff starts around 3:45.)


  1. Oh wow... this is awe-inspiring.
    But I really REALLY have to say something, as a volunteer with Straitwatch cetacean society. These kayakers made a few avoidable mistakes.
    When you see whales, PLEASE do not approach them any closer than 200 meters. Farther is better.
    If the whales are approaching you, try to get out of their path. Take your kayak to shore if you can.
    If you can't get to shore or even get out of the way of the whales, RAFT UP. Bring your kayaks together. This makes you more visible to the whales, who might have assumed your boat was a floating log.
    Knock on your boat and keep talking! Whales have excellent hearing. Let them know you are there.
    Remember, what you are seeing is not a panda bear! It's a top predator that talks to the other whales including the one you can't see UNDER your boat.
    What I saw in this pod of orcas were youngsters checking out the kayaks and playing "Chicken" -- and the big males tried to protect the youngsters by getting between them and the kayaks.
    Most of the humans these whales see are in noisy, stinky powerboats that have dangerous sharp things. We kayakers do NOT want the orcas to see us as dangerous to the young orcas.

  2. Thanks for commenting Paula.

    I was one of the kayakers who was in this video and I'd just like to explain a couple of things. We were about a mile off shore, doing a run to Secretary Island in Sooke when we heard there was a pod of Orca about 2 miles away, around Otter Point.

    We were kayaking around 15-20 charter fishing companies, some as close as 200 feet away.

    When then arrived, we had NO idea that they were going to swim near us. They were fast and we were caught in the middle. As you can see in the video, we were also very nearby a whale watching boat. We decided it was safest for us to just sit there and float by as this was L-POD, about 25+ whales and they were spread out for about a mile.

    Being in a foot powered kayak, we couldn't move fast enough.

    We have since spoken to the DFO and we were reminded of the guidelines.

    You are absolutley correct in what you say and I wouldn't reccommend having what happened to us, happen to anyone else.

    As I said. It certainly wasn't our mandate to put ourselves in danger, nor was it to get in the way of the whales. I've updates our youtube video to share a link with the guidelines so others are aware.

    On that note, I'm glad you find the video awe-inspiring and keep up the great work with Straitwatch.

  3. Oh, that's great, Jason!
    I'm so glad you put a link to the Department of Fisheries guidelines on your Youtube video. Now those of us who really don't think we'll ever get to see a whale will know what to do if it does happen.
    The orcas are so amazing, aren't they? Big and muscular and so very alive. It's wonderful that when they were crowded by the other boats the orcas seemed to feel that it was okay to pass close to you and your friend.
    On a note of solidarity, I'll let you know that one of the times I was taking notes for the Straitwatch biologist, she suddenly killed the zodiac's engine and said, "Damn! They've turned and are coming right at us, and we can't get out of their way in time." And three killer whales swam less than 100 metres from our now-drifting 18-foot zodiac. One was a big male only a few yards away... but the ones under your boat were even closer!