Victoria couple Alison Fleming and Travis Orton were having their engagement photos taken at Glencoe Cove in Saanich last week, the place he first proposed in February.
But 30 minutes in, they were interrupted.
“We walked down a bit closer and Travis goes, ‘there are orcas out there!” said Fleming.
At least six orcas (killer whales) decided to join in on the celebration
“As soon as we saw them, it blew my mind,” said Orton. “I couldn’t believe how close they came to shore.”
It seemed like it was meant to be after the photoshoot had already been rescheduled two times, once due to COVID-19 and another due to the smoke Vancouver Island received in September.
The once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to photograph an engagement and killer whales at the same time was not wasted by the photographer.
“It was hard not to start bawling my eyes out actually, we were all in shock,” said photographer Emma Rossum.
“It was pretty crazy how close they were to the shore because we could see the texture of their skin, a lot of them looked smaller, so it might have been the new babies in the pod.”
In a photo taken of the couple and the photographer from a distance, the orcas seem to have come close to the shore. While it’s not clear if the orcas were southern resident killer whales or transient killer whales, there are many reasons the mammals came so close to the rocks.
“Transients, in particular, like to be close to the coast and right next to shore. They’ll go into small bays into water that’s 10 to 15 feet deep and they’ll be looking for seals that have hauled up on the rocks,” said marine mammal scientist Josh McInnes.
But instead of hunting that night, the killer whales gave the newly betrothed couple a 30-minute show, including a couple of calves spinning in the water.
“They were doing all sorts of jumps,” said Orton. ”
They were on their backs, bellies up, slapping around in the water, they were all playing together it was really neat.”
It’s activity for the pod when they’re not hunting.
“Once they’ve made a kill, pretty much everything within a kilometre knows they’re there, they often start communicating and that’s when the social aspect comes in,” said McInnes. “You’ll see them playing with kelp, with seaweed, with each other, breaching just coming out of the water, spy-hopping, killer whales are very social that way.”
Meanwhile, the couple is still shocked at their luck and in awe of their uninvited but special guests.
“It’s so hard to describe, it was so surreal, nothing like that has happened ever,” said Fleming.
“Things like that don’t happen every day and to happen during such a special moment, its something we’ll remember for the rest of our lives,” said Orton.
And photographer Rossum says this was one of the most special photoshoots she’s ever done.
“I love shooting photos of people in love and to have whales show up was just amazing.”