(Eighth in the series Superpod One – Where It All Began)
Day Four: Further down the island, some of the J Pod are reportedly gathering for dinner. We’re all gathering for dinner, too, over at Candace’s house. But David Kirby can’t get enough of orcas and wants to go see them from the shore.
David is writing a book about orcas in captivity, SeaWorld, and the death of Dawn Brancheau. “They’re over at American Camp,” he tells me. “Want to come?”
American Camp is a grassy, mossy, rocky area of the island that looks out over several bays where orcas gather regularly to feed. In the 1850s, it was the site of a dispute that broke out between the Americans and the British, sparked by the shooting of a “British” pig by an American. The two countries almost ended up in yet another war before British Admiral Lambert Baynes advised the Governor of Vancouver Island that it would be unwise to “involve two great nations in a war over a squabble about a pig.”
Orcas, incidentally, seem to have learned to settle their disputes without fighting each other. That’s in part because modern orcas have been around for about 15 million years, while modern humans only appeared about 100 thousand years ago and our culture is still quite primitive.
It’s raining when we get to American Camp and walk a half mile or so down to the ocean where the J pod was last spotted by one of the boats. We immediately spot about a dozen of them, so close to the shore you could almost wade out and touch them.
It seems like they’ve found a shoal of salmon and are focused on getting the 200 pounds of food they each need every day. Salmon – specifically Chinook salmon – is the only food that the resident orcas will eat.
The orcas surface for a few seconds, then dive, then we see salmon flying in the air to avoid them, then the orcas surface again, then dive, and on it goes.
The orcas surface for a few seconds, then dive, then we see salmon flying in the air to avoid them, then the orcas surface again, then dive back down, and on it goes.
Then, after one of their dives, they don’t resurface. Nothing. They’ve just vanished. Most likely, Grandma J2 has called them all back together. “Time to move on, boys,” she’s told them.
Time for us to move on, too. Dinner is waiting at Candace’s house.
Plus it’s still raining, and we’re absolutely soaked.