John Buchanan of Squamish, British Columbia, was in the right place at the right time when a group of transient killer whales mixed it up with hundreds of fleeing white-sided dolphins.
John said it appeared that the orcas had formed a line to herd the dolphins into shallow water in Departure Bay near Nanaimo.
“The only way they could escape was going through the orcas,” he told me. “I was wondering if they would swim right into the ferry. The ferry may have made the escape a little narrower for them.”
John happened to be on the ferry from Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver to Departure Bay on Vancouver Island when the wild encounter occurred on Monday.
“I was just traveling on the ferry to meet someone at Nanaimo,” said Buchanan, who is active in the environmental groups, including Squamish Stream Keepers. “I always have my camera close by.
“We were just coming into Departure Bay. Someone spotted the orcas, then the water just exploded with all these dolphins in the bay. The orcas had them pinned in.
“I bet there was all kinds of action going on under the water,” he said. “It was spectacular, especially when one orca was breaking in one direction and another was breaking in the other direction.”
John recorded that exciting shot of a double breach on his camera, which you can see toward the end of the video.
Later, he was informed by a biologist at Vancouver Aquarium that breaching is often how the whales celebrate a kill. Although he noticed a lot of chasing at the time, he never spotted any dead or dying dolphins nor was any blood in the water.
John posted the video on YouTube on Monday, the same day he recorded the dramatic encounter. As of this morning, the number of views was approaching 100,000.
CBC News posted the video on its webpage, and John has been approached by people who would like to purchase the footage, but he plans to keep it available for public viewing.
“I’ll never see anything like that again,” he said.
At my suggestion, John sent photos to Ken Balcomb and Dave Ellifrit of the Center for Whale Research. Ken reported that the orcas included T-100s. According to the book “Transients” by John Ford and Graeme Ellis, they are a group of killer whales seen mainly in Southeast Alaska.