Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Orca Incident

I often fished in Pedder Bay, near Lotus City, and particularly the mouth of the bay around the Race Rocks where sea life was abundant and with the feed chain in full swing, the top of the chain, killer whales, were also abundant! A local entrepreneur in the 70's developed a market for killer whales and Pedder Bay was used to create a holding pen for herded killer whales, to be sold to provide stock for Marine Shows throughout North America! Having our boat moored in Pedder bay for the summer that year, the whale pen was always a point of interest. Several adult whales were confined to a good portion of the bay by submersed netting with surface floats that were well demarcated and the whales could be seen swimming at the surface. My friend Bill, son Robert and I were fishing one beautiful summer day, and I said to Bill, who I thought had not been to Pedder Bay before, "Have you ever seen the Whale Corral here in the bay?" "No", he said. I told him we would come close to it so he could take good look. On the way back from our trip I cut the engine when we were near the pen so we could sit and watch. I had not noted how fast the tide was running and since we were without power, the boat slid gracefully over the netting into the centre of the pen. The whales had company. My boat was a displacement hull and the propeller was three feet below the water line. I could envision in an instant ripping out the net with my propeller; creating a big enough rent in the pen to allow several million dollars worth of whale make their escape. Bill, whose seamanship was of low quality, made his way to the cabin to make a cup of coffee. I don't think the truth had yet dawned on him or else he was disavowing us! My 12 year old son was just excited to be in whale company. The whales were, on the other hand, totally indifferent to us. They seemed happy enough. I couldn't chance powering over the net with a running propeller, so I started the boat at one end of the pen and raced to the other side, cutting the power at the last moment and allowing the way to carry me over. Luckily for us, there was no damage and were no observers. Capturing killer whales is now the crime, and had we damaged the net it was no solace that we might have been celebrated by a subset of people in today's contemporary mind-set. I'm just as glad for the anonymity. It was a stupid thing to do!

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