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'It was swimming around me': Free-diver captures close encounter with orca

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SIDNEY, B.C. -

When Ping-Yi Wu started taking a selfie while floating in the ocean near East Sooke, B.C., the tourist never imagined she would eventually capture an orca with her camera.

“I was just looking around,” Ping-Yi smiles in a Zoom call from her home in Taipei. “Just seeing what was underwater.”

Ping-Yi had travelled to B.C. from Taiwan to visit her friend and fellow free-diver Ethan Peng.

“Everything just seemed normal,” Ethan recalls. “We had a good time in the water.”

Ethan was hoping to introduce Ping-Yi to some of the many creatures he’d met under the sea, like an octopus (which are certainly shy around strangers), or the manta ray (that seemed to greet the divers with a smile).

“Whenever wild animals come by,” Ethan says. “I always think that’s good luck!”

So when seals kept swimming around him, Ethan called his friend over to get some footage with her camera. But Ping-Yi kept missing them.

“I think, ‘Why not me?’” Ping Yi smiles. “Why I cannot see?”

“And then five minutes later,” Ethan says. “Ping was screaming, ‘Ahhh! Oh my God!’”

Ethan assumed Ping-Yi had been startled by a seal, until he noticed a large black fin cutting through the water.

“I realized I was wrong very quickly,” Ethan says.

And then, approaching Ping-Yi quite curiously was an orca.

“I was shocked,” Ethan says.

“It was swimming circles around me,” Ping-Yi says. “It was very close.”

Although it was close enough to touch, she didn’t. Although it felt like a dream, it wasn’t.

“I feel wow!” Ping-Yi smiles. “Beautiful.”

“I feel blessed,” Ethan says. “Honoured.”

As Ethan looks back on the video, he also couldn’t feel more grateful to have shared it with his friend.

“It is the experience in our water here,” Ethan says.

Which is why — despite having her video as a souvenir — before returning home, Ping-Yi bought a more tangible reminder of her remarkable orca encounter — a "fluffy, killer whale stuffie."

“It’s a very good experience and memory,” Ping-Yi smiles while cradling the toy in her arm. “A forever memory.”

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