As with day one I think we started about an hour late. The crew was pretty beat up from the previous day. Someone was meant to put coffee on for 7am but it never happened. I think I started to hear people milling around about 8am. The nice thing was that I would be leaving from Kevin’s at Drifter’s Cove and could roll out of bed into the ocean as we had landed there the day prior!
As we headed out of the cove into Lama Pass in Heiltsuk territory in the Great Bear Rainforest we could see that conditions were far better than day 1. Although I was swimming against the current for a good portion of the day, I was not battling strong winds. I would soon find out though, that I had other challenges to overcome.
We headed out of the cove and around the corner past Walker Island. The temperature was 13C. Swimming seemed easy on fairly flat water. There were lots of jellies in the water, both moon and lions mane.
I could see Colette pointing to various things on the shoreline. She was giving Ray a bit of eco-education!
And then she pointed away from the shoreline toward the centre of the pass. I stopped for a quick check-in. She had spotted a small pod of whales as they spouted. I was reassured they were far on the other side of the pass and swam on.
I am not going to lie. Its a bit unnerving knowing you are swimming in whale-atory. I have unexpectedly swum beside a grey whale in English Bay Vancouver but this was different. I was aware before I jumped in the water that I may encounter either orcas or humpbacks.
My crew reassured me I would be OK so I swam on.
About 3 hours into the swim the water rose from directly below me very gently – and then fell just as gently. It was an incredible feeling, not like any other I have had in the water. I stopped to check in with Collette to see if she felt it. When I looked to the right there was a humpback whale about 300 feet from me. I panicked and then scrambled to hide behind my kayakers. Within seconds I realized that really wouldn’t do much.
My crew worked to calm me and figure out our next course of action. Colette suggested that one of the boats go ahead to make sure there were no more humpbacks around the corner and I asked Matt to accompany me as I shoreline swam. I needed to overcome my fear.
We continued to get closer to the end of Lama Pass and an opening to Fisher Channel. Although I was much calmer I was still not feeling 100% comfortable. I was fully aware that the pass was narrowing and the number of whales would likely increase as we got closer to Fisher. I trust my crew and rely on them to keep me safe; but I also recognize that there is only so much they can do. All I could think of was me and 10 whales swimming through Lama Pass into Fisher at the same time. One of us will get squished out, and that one will be me!
I opted to swim to a 10km point and exit the water on land. I did this not because of my crew and their response to the humpbacks, but because of my own lack of knowledge about these gentle giants. I was under very watchful eyes the entire time I was swimming and my crew was ready to pluck me out of the water at any point. I am grateful to them for that. But for me, it is very different being in the water with the whales than being in a boat. And it is ultimately a fear that I need to overcome if I am going to make it to Namu.
On a positive note I have been researching humpbacks since the day I exited the water and I am fully prepared to jump back in and continue the journey to Namu next year! I am making plans to head back in July.