WATCH: A group of whale-watching captains say they were following a pod of orcas close to the Royal Canadian Navy’s blasting range Thursday when not one but two loud blasts went off. April Lawrence reports.
Springtide Whale Watching captain Mark Williams was filming as he confronted the Canadian navy after a training blast rattled the area Thursday afternoon.
“We waited until the whales cleared the bay and then we were good to go ? but you just set an explosive off like two minutes ago and there were killer whales right there,” Williams tells the naval sentry in the video.
Williams was in one of nearly a dozen whale watching boats following a pod of transient killer whales near Bentinck Island, a land-based demolition range off the southern tip of Vancouver Island.
Several captains say they warned the sentries there were whales in the area and were shocked when a blast went off anyway a few minutes later.
“Between upset and angry we were just like, the whales were like right there, the boat was right there, the guy saw him, I don’t know what was going on,” said Williams.
The navy says by the time they were told about the orcas, it was too late to stop the detonation process.
“The time fuse had already been lit, a minute or so later the detonation occurred at no point did anyone enter anywhere near the 500-yard danger radius of the explosion site itself,” said Royal Canadian Navy Lt. Andre Bard
A half hour later, there was yet another blast.
Whale watchers say they observed the orcas acting strangely.
“They didn’t seem to know which direction to go in so they floated in one spot, which during this season I haven’t seen happen before,” said Springtide Captain Cameron Ontkean.
Mark Williams took a photo around the time of the second blast, which appears to show the whales just off shore of the island.
“There was no confusion, there was 100 per cent whales there,” he said.
But the navy says it followed all protocols to protect marine mammals.
They say the confusion may be in the safety zone requirements ? the danger zone, where an animal or person could be injured, is a 500-yard perimeter around the blast site, not the island itself.
“The whales were on the southwestern tip of Bentinck which is about 800 yards away from where the detonation was occurring,” said Bard.
No one is sure if the whales were harmed, but the whale watching captains and their passengers were clearly left rattled by the experience.