24 hours at Cracroft Point
1 September 2015 - 4:45am
CP, or Cracroft Point, is OrcaLab’s remote outpost and land-based video station perfectly located at the point where Blackney Pass feeds into Johnstone Strait in British Columbia, Canada. This rocky headland witnesses the annual migration of millions of salmon as they return to their spawning rivers along the west coast. There are five species of salmon in these Pacific waters – pink, chum, coho, sockeye and the largest of them all, and the resident orca’s favourite- the mighty chinook. Each summer, as the salmon funnel in from the Pacific Ocean and into the Strait, they provide a conveyor belt of food for the orcas.
I arrived at CP lunchtime and barely had time to unpack my provisions before my colleague, Megan, spotted some incoming orcas. I grabbed my binoculars and we quickly identified these as A5 pod whales as I saw WDC Adoption orca, Fife amongst them, travelling with his cousin, Surge.
We spent the next hour or so filming the family as they foraged in the waters right off our filming platform. From time to time some of the humpbacks that were in the area surfaced right alongside.
The humpbacks have been an incredible success story here as when I first came in 1990 you would never see one in the area since they were all whaled out by 1969. But the last 12 years or so have seen their numbers increase significantly as they once again explore their ancestral waters. Today, they are practically our constant companions as they forage on herring and other schooling fish before heading out on their migration. The throat opening of a humpback is just the diameter of a football so ironically the salmon in these waters are just too large for these leviathans.
The previous evening at OrcaLab we were treated to a stunning view of the full moon but tonight Zeus had other plans as the clouds rolled in with the rain as we bunkered down with some of Megan’s delicious pasta for dinner.
Throughout the night we were treated to the gamut of acoustics from the resident platform mouse, Mr Jingles, trying to get through the mesh door into the cabin, to the colossal thrash of a humpback whale either breaching, cartwheeling or lobtailing (it was inky dark!) which brought my dream to an abrupt halt and nearly threw me from my bunk!
By dawn, the wind had subsided and the rain had stopped when my second ‘rude awakening’ came from Megan who yelled ‘we have whales out front’. As we stumbled bleary-eyed on to the platform we saw the A30s swim by including WDC’s very own Bend and her calf.
The radio crackles into life with reports of more whales coming up from the east. As Megan and I scan the Strait, strong coffee in hand, we wonder what the next 24 hours have in store for us in this truly magical corner of the planet.