‘Its fin was six feet tall’: Quadra Island orca encounter thrills people two metres away

'Its fin was six feet tall': Quadra Island orca encounter thrills people two metres away

A group of friends looking for adventure got more than hoped for Sunday during a trip to Quadra Island.

“The first thing we saw was the big one in the back, its fin was like six feet tall,” said Brooke Bell who saw the four whales up close on Sunday.

The pod of transient killer whales was in Moulds Bay, where the group had been free-diving earlier. Five people were on the rocks along the waterline when the orcas came by to take a very close look.

“Holy cow, oh my God, oh my God” the group can be heard yelling in a video of the encounter.

“Erika was saying, ‘Callum’ — who was up to his knees in the water and closest to the whale — ‘get out of the way,’ like we didn’t know what was going to happen,” said Bell. “They were so close but I think they were more curious than anything.”

According to a killer whale researcher, she was probably right because at first glance the figure on the rocks in the water could have looked like something the transient orcas normally eat and commonly snatch off rocks, like the one Callum was standing on.

“Absolutely, that was my first impression that maybe they heard the sounds of someone in the water from a distance and had to come over to check it out to see exactly what it was,” said Fisheries and Oceans Canada orca researcher, Jared Towers. “Seals and sea lions as we know do spend a lot of time in shallow water.”

There have only ever been two recorded so-called attacks by killer whales on humans in the wild. One in California, the other in Alaska, where a whale simply nudged a person in the water. Both are believed to be cases of mistaken identity.

There was another close encounter with the same transient orcas near Quadra Island last weekend when a 14-year-old boy was swimming near his parent’s boat.

“These killer whales came over to him and they were actually between him and the boat,” Towers said. “They were terrified.”

“I think we were all pretty calm in that sense but still blown away by the experience itself,” added Bell.

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Dean StoltzDean Stoltz

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