April 1, 2013

Orca whales help celebrate 30 years in Desolation Sound

An orca whale 'spy hopping' in Desolation Sound, April 1, 2013. Photo by Jill Barber.

2013 is the thirtieth anniversary of our family cabin in Desolation Sound, BC. It was in 1983 that the cabin finally came to completion after many snags, and it was that spring that we first starting going up regularly. Before that, we camped.

To celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of our little place in the wilderness, my wife Jill and I just spent one of the most spectacular holiday weekends we’ve ever had at the cabin. Each morning we woke up to a thick, pea soup fog that mystically burned off at 10am every day.

Big Buck$ sits waiting for the fog to lift for another gorgeous day. Photo by JB.

The lifting fog revealed glorious, blazing sunshine without a cloud in the sky, summer temperatures, and glassy calm blue seas. And it wouldn’t have been a trip to Desolation Sound without my lanky pal Rory and his wife Julie and their kids coming by in his boat the Salubrious Chief to take us out for a day of exploring and adventure.

A perfect mirrored reflection on the canals of Prideaux Haven. This is very close to the shot that is on the back cover of 'Adventures in Solitude'. Photo by JB.

After a stop at the Curme Islands, then a picnic in beautiful Prideaux Haven, we roared across the expanse of the Sound to Squirrel Cove, on Cortes Island, the only open general store north of Lund at this time of year. On the way we spotted a pod of porpoises, their stunted black dorsal fins just clearing the surface of the ocean.

In Squirrel Cove, after a booze / ice cream / gas up, Rory’s boat conked out, meaning we had to hitchhike home. Some new pals from Refuge Cove and a giant black dog named Henry gave us a ride on an open oyster skiff ¬†as the sun set over Desolation Sound.

Jill bundling up riding home on the open bow of an oyster skiff.

The next day, we fired up my boat, the mighty Big Buck$, Terror of the Inlet, for the recovery mission, slowly towing the Salubrious Chief back to the Okeover dock, where we said goodbye to Rory and his family as they headed back to the city.

Jill and I had one more day in paradise. An Easter weekend in Desolation Sound wouldn’t be complete without an Easter feast at our neighbours Anita and Darrell’s, at the house that hangs off the cliff like a diver ready to jump.

The next morning, after the fog lifted, we packed up Big Buck$ and headed home. As we passed by our neighbour’s cabins, Anita waved us down and told us there was a pod of orcas half way down the inlet towards the dock. I freaked out.

Thar she blows! Mamma orca with two little ones nearby in Desolation Sound BC.

Could it be? In the thirty years of our family’s cabin being in Desolation Sound, I have never, ever seen orcas in our inlets. I’ve seen dolphins, porpoises, sea lions, seals, otters, eagles, oyster catchers, mergansers, and marbled murreletes, but never a killer whale. It’s the one animal I have always dreamt of seeing in the Sound for thirty long years.

And sure enough, there they were… a family of four. A big bull male, a large female with a very distinct, curled dorsal fin like a shepherd’s staff, and two very young, rambunctious small calves, the smallest one tailing the mother constantly. We watched them chase fish for as long as we could, taking as many photos as we could, until we knew we were getting close to missing the ferry home.

Seeing those orcas on that beautiful Easter Monday morning was a spectacular, fitting, and moving way to end a perfect weekend and celebrate thirty years amazing years of travelling two and from our cabin in the BC coastal wilderness.


Dolphins of Desolation Sound (video)

Upcoming events in Powell River / Desolation Sound area

(8) Comments

  1. Chris says:

    Ugh! Why couldn’t they have been there a week earlier? Maybe I’ll see them on May long.

  2. Grant Lawrence says:

    Hey Chris… it took me thirty years!

  3. patmcp says:

    Ya, but did you do anything good?

  4. Grant Lawrence says:

    I got a speeding ticket on the way home if you must know!

  5. patmcp says:

    That makes me laugh so hard!

  6. Margie says:

    Here’s a link to “Whales and Dolphins BC”. If you sign up for “Sightings Updates” you’ll know where in your area to look for cetaceans and increase the odds of a repeat performance. Sighting reports are sent almost daily. There is also a facebook page:

  7. Gary Shilling says:

    Orcas are plentiful this year. I’ve seen them in Okeover Inlet on 3 separate occassions!

  8. Grant Lawrence says:

    Hey Gary – I missed them this time, even though I was in Okeover for most of July! Glad you saw them…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *