Sound - Pacific White-Sided Dolphins
Photo M. Guille
Every time I
think I've had more than my share of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences,
I have another one.
This time, my hubby and I had been out for an afternoon and evening
of boating, on one of those remarkable 'summer' days we had in April!
With the fishing lines in the water (for no apparent reason, as
we never even got a nibble), we had meandered around the Chrome
Island Lighthouse, and made our way over to Norris Rocks to see
if the sea lions were still there (they weren't).
So we slowly cruised into Tribune Bay on Hornby Island, one of our
favourite spots in the area. After dropping anchor in water shallow
enough to see the bottom (which happens to be beautiful white sand),
and enjoying the potato salad I'd made up earlier, we 'hung out'
on deck for an hour or more, soaking up the sun and debating whether
or not to spend the night there. We were the only boaters in the
bay, which we really like, and the few folks who'd been wandering
on the beach earlier, were gone.
A southeaster coming up in the night (which is when they always
come up!) would have made Tribune very inhospitable, however, so
we decided to head into Deep Bay for the night. Again, at a leisurely
pace, we pulled up the Danforth and made our way back across Lambert
Channel and into Baynes Sound.
Not far west of the lighthouse, as we were scanning the hazy horizon
for the markers on the outside of the Deep Bay Spit, we spotted
some turbulence in the water ahead of us. Thinking that maybe we
were coming into some feed, and we just might get one more shot
at the big one, we pointed the bow of the boat in the direction
of the action.
That action turned out to be much more exciting than catching the
big one! It was a pod of dolphins, probably fifty or more, in a
feeding frenzy right before our eyes.
As we approached them and cut the motors, they turned, en masse,
and 'swarmed' our boat, passing within a few feet on both sides
of us! And just in case we thought that might be the end of the
show, they turned and came back again ... and again. For nearly
twenty minutes, we watched, spellbound, as they circled, repeatedly,
right beside us. In over ten years of cruising this coast, we've
never seen anything like it!
In conversation the following day with Nanaimo's killer whale researcher/photojournalist
Graeme Ellis, we learned that what we'd seen were Pacific white-sided
dolphins, which had not been observed on Vancouver Island's east
coast since the last big El Nino, in the early 1980s. About two
months prior to our sighting, there was a report locating them in
the Strait of Georgia, and ten days previous, they'd been spotted
cavorting off Departure Bay. According to Ellis, it's El Nino that
brought them here again, and the swarming behaviour was 'just their
way of saying hello.'
Personally, we don't care what brought them here, but we sure hope
they decide to stay. They took our breath away, and that particular
'hello' will never be forgotten.