'It blew my mind': Humpback whale follows tour boat for an hour off B.C. coast
Some whale sightings are a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it scenario, or if you’re lucky, the marine mammals will put on a show before turning tail.
But on Monday, a whale-watching vessel off the coast of Campbell River had to gun it to get away from a curious humpback that wouldn’t leave its side.
Courtenay resident Trina Gable set out on the tour with a group of relatives from Belgium who were hoping to catch a glimpse of a whale before they headed back home.
While the group was heading back from Mitlenatch Island, the captain spotted a group of humpbacks in the distance and stopped to observe them.
“Pretty much as soon he stopped the boat, this humpback started surfacing next to the boat and he just stayed with us,” said Gable.
Video of the whale shows it surfacing multiple times just metres from the boat, to the sheer amazement of passengers.
The whale was so close it even blasted the group a few times with its blowhole, resulting in what Gable described as smelly “whale snot” showers.
“Speechless,” she said. “For me, I was born and raised in Port Hardy and it blew my mind, and I’ve seen a lot of stuff on the ocean. For these guys it was just about the highlight of their lifetimes.”
She said the whale hung out around the boat for about an hour, even while other tours came into the area to watch it.
“We think he was just super curious,” said Gable. “He’d go to the front, the left side, the right side. It was kind of like he was showing off for us sometimes.”
She said the captain reported the encounter into marine research to discuss what the best method of leaving it would be.
As soon as it looked like there was a safe distance, the captain then took off to get away – but the whale gave chase.
After about 10 minutes, the massive mammal had given up and the boat pulled over to have some coffee and come down from the experience.
Gable put the encounter in the top three experiences of her life “next to having my kids,” she said.
As for the relatives from Belgium, she said they ended off their trip with a once-in-a-lifetime sighting that’s about as west coast as it gets.
Humpback whales have made a comeback in recent years, with an estimated 21,000 in the northeast Pacific Ocean alone.
Boaters are required by federal guidelines to maintain a 100-metre distance from the creatures, and if they’re not in compliance they must cautiously move away when safe to do so.