Fantastic Orca Encounter #4
Sometimes sea kayaking with orca whales involves backing into a bed of bull kelp and letting them come to you. On this day, we were backed into a kelp bed awaiting L pod on a hot summer day. The tide was rushing out directly in front of us like a river, and, since the whales were coming from the south, we knew they would be fighting against the ebb. This is a good thing because they move more slowly against a strong tide, especially when they have calves along who are not yet strong swimmers. This guarantees that we get more time to observe them. The pod was strung out over a couple of miles, and we sat back for an hour and watched wild orcas breach, lobtail, spyhop and porpoise directly in front of us. The last two whales were a mom and her calf obviously having a hard time keeping up with their group. The calf(perhaps six months old) was barely making headway against the tide, but you could see that it was chafing for it’s independence when it would leave mom and swim off on it’s own. As they approached our vantage point in the kelp, the youngster veered away from mom to explore on it’s own. Surfacing just in front of our bows and unaware of us, the lone calf surfaced, blew and suddenly saw us. The unexpected sight of us in our bright kayaks was too much, and the youngster dove , and , even without the hydrophones, we could hear it under the water yelping for it’s mother. Sure enough, a protective six ton guardian suddenly surfaced next to the calf with a loud explosion of breath and escorted her child safely along the edge of the kelp bed to rejoin the rest of the pod.
We had enjoyed an extraordinary visit from a pod of orca whales and especially from a mother orca and her calf!