Galiano Island woman describes stunning close encounter with southern resident killer whales


WATCH: An intimate encounter with the endangered southern resident killer whales. Video courtesy of Rachelle Hayden

A Galiano woman is in awe after a close encounter with southern resident killer whales earlier this month.

On the morning of Sept. 10, Rachelle Hayden and her husband, who live on Galiano Island, were told by a friend on Pender Island that a pod of groups may be swimming through their area.

“We weren’t sure if they were transient or southern resident,” Hayden said.

The two headed out to their favourite spot at Active Pass and saw eight to 10 whales swim by, followed by another 15 whales. Hayden’s hsband took the video that shows Rachelle standing on the shore while the whales breached nearby.

“That’s the closest I’ve ever been to whales,” Hayden who runs Tour Galiano, said.

“It was surreal, like I was in a dream.”

She said orcas sometimes swim on the other side of Active Pass so they were lucky to see the animals.

In the video, one of the whales stops to glance at Hayden. After the encounter, Hayden contacted an orca specialist, who told her the whale was J46, also known as Star.

“She was very curious as to who I was and what I was doing,” Hayden said.

The majority of people who have watched the video have been excited to see the encounter, Hayden said.

“They’re in their own environment, doing their own thing,” Hayden said.

She also said she hopes the video helps those who are grieving the loss of J50. J50, or Scarlet, was declared dead by the Center for Whale Research after not being seen for several weeks. The sick three-year-old orca was treated with antibiotics in August and then again in September but the medicine didn’t appear to be effective. The southern resident population is now at 74.

“I hope this video brings happiness to the orca-loving community and brings a smile to their faces,” Hayden said.

Alexa HuffmanAlexa Huffman

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