In our work as the Marine Education and Research Society, Jared Towers, Christie McMillan and I went out on December 4th, 2010 on the waters of Northern Vancouver Island in the hopes of finding a Humpback Whale. We didn’t. Instead Nature gifted us with two sightings of Transient (mammal-eating) Killer Whales; a total of 16 animals (now also known as “Bigg’s Killer Whales“).
First we found the T55s and T19s. The lighting on this December day was so beautiful; when these whales blew, rainbows appeared to erupt around them.
Then, when in transit back to Alert Bay, we found T139, the T140s and T141s. We had also seen +/-300 Pacific White-Sided Dolphins in the area so knew that there was a possibility that these Killer Whales might choose to have dinner. The display we then witnessed was both brutal and breath-taking.
One of the mature females erupted out of the water higher than I have ever witnessed. She cleared the surface by at least 1.5 body lengths, apparently having rammed the dolphin that was spinning through the air ahead of her. Other spectacular leaps followed, one where mother and calf leapt at the same time – mother high, her calf lower but in almost perfect synchronicity.
Once aware that the Transient Killer Whales were there, the dolphins cascaded away with incredible energy. We could see them still in full flight, several kilometres away, even more than 10 minutes after the initial attack. But yes, at least one dolphin did not get away. It is the role of Transient Killer Whales to eat other marine mammals; they need to feed their babies too.
I share some of these photos of these encounters at the link below. Realize that the images were taken with a 400 mm lens.
Even after my 12 years on (and under) these waters, I am left stunned at the area’s beauty, biodiversity and the opportunity to learn.
Click here for more photos from the December 4, 2010 encounter.