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The waters of Johnstone Strait are considered the best place in the world to observe Orcinus orca (killer whales). Here are a few of the exciting whale behaviours we have seen from “Island Roamer”:

• Orcas swim over to the boat, surface, giving us a chance to see their full bodies under the water, and sometimes roll on their side to look at us.

• Breaching is when an orca leaps clear of the water and falls back with a huge splash

• Orcas often spyhop, raising their upper bodies clear of the water to look at the above-water environment

• The ship’s hydrophone (underwater microphone) enables us to hear orcas vocalize – communicating under the water

• Large numbers of orcas congregate in Johnstone Strait a few times each summer. These ‘superpod’ groups are extremely exciting and we can only hope to be there - and have lots of film on hand.

Johnstone Strait is considered the core killer whale area. However, we could encounter orcas at any point during the voyage as they travel miles every day. Some of our anchorages are chosen so that we may hear orcas swim past. This is truly a unique opportunity to see whales in the wild.

Very close to Robson Bight is the old Kwakwaka’wakw village of Mimquimlees. In 1921, police arrested the elders holding a “potlatch” ceremony here, and confiscated their prized ceremonial masks.

The potlatch is a community event to witness changes in status (weddings, deaths, achievements). The government outlawed the ceremony believing it would help native people gain a good work ethic and speed their conversion to Christianity. Many of the masks and priceless pieces of art were then secretly sold to museum collections across North America. Today, at Mimquimlees, with permission of the band, we will see elaborately carved totem poles and the remains of native “great houses”. Inhabited for perhaps thousands of years, the village withstood attack, disease epidemics, and the laws banning the “potlatch”, before abandonment earlier this century.

The Kwakwaka’wakw people from most of the old villages moved to the government cannery town of Alert Bay. The excellent U’Mista Cultural Centre now holds some of the famous potlatch masks and other interesting artifacts. Today in Alert Bay, children are once again being taught the native language, traditional dances, and art and family stories.

Black bears are frequently spotted among the islands on these trips. They like to roam the shore, feeding on crabs and other intertidal organisms. However, it is the opportunity to see grizzly bears feeding on spawning salmon that makes this trip unique! It is a classic wildlife experience. There are few places in the world that can provide consistent, safe and incredible grizzly bear viewing. Glendale Cove up Knight Inlet is one of them, and has now become one of British Columbia’s premier wildlife viewing sites.

This area has a very rich and varied bird population. Many people will be amazed at the number of bald eagles we see on the trip. Colorful seabirds such as oystercatchers, pigeon guillemots and rhinoceros auklets are common and we see large numbers of smaller water birds, such as phalaropes. With the help of interested trip members we will keep a list of the birds and animals we sight during the trip.

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