Big whale and her calf went by yesterday. Humpback, we think. They were a bit far off but we could see the spume and the occasional ‘huge whale tail’ rising in the air just before they dove. Pretty cool. She managed to travel this far, it seems, without the usual coterie of orange-suited whale-watchers in high-speed inflatables hovering nearby. But that would not last. She was heading into whale-watching territory.
Whale watching is a big business out here in the summer and we can see the tourists fly by every afternoon as they return from their favourite watching sites. There are at least two large boats with a capacity of about 16-20 heading home every day. They are distinguishable by the bright orange survival suits and their red inflatable hulls. But there are plenty more traveling in powerful aluminum water-taxi-type vessels. The popular whaling grounds suffer a number of invading boats every day.
Of course there are others, too. Aside from a local or a day-fisherman who might stop to watch the whales by chance, there are big charter boats and small cruise ships who also include whale watching in their itinerary. It is not unusual for us to see five or six vessels watching five or six Orcas and we are not even in the prime watching areas.
I don’t think it is a bad thing. All the professionals involved keep a respectful distance and most shut their engines down. It may be an invasion of the whale’s privacy but they tend to minimize it. And no whale is hurt, captured or harpooned. It is an improvement from yesteryear, anyway. It is an interesting evolution in coastal business, that is for sure.
In fact, coastal business is undergoing some radical changes. Less logging. Little to no traditional fishing (small wooden trollers and gill-netters). Less shell-fish gathering. Shrinking settlements. Even less homesteading, I think.
Coastal community populations are generally static or shrinking as of this observation. I can’t think of one that is prospering or growing with the possible exception of Courtenay/Comox. It sports the best local hospital, shopping and an international airport as a way of explanation. Most communities are shriveling.
I thought it would be otherwise. I really did. The Gulf of Georgia is, in my opinion, the most beautiful spot on earth and, if I am showing a bias, it is still internationally recognized as one of them, for sure. The climate is temperate, the environment relatively pristine still and it offers a pretty reasonable living standard in a country not stricken with war, rampant corruption or an unstable economy. Given the impending explosion of retirees looming on the horizon, I expected that the Georgia basin would become the retirement mecca for Canada.
And, it is. Kinda. The appeal is there. And there are signs. But the people responding to it so far are largely well-off, short-term and ‘just visiting’. We are seeing more and more day-trippers coming to visit the locals from the comfort of a small cruise ship that will provide hot hors d’oeuvres after their guided outing.
There is the odd mansion builder but there are fewer modest-to-humble cabin builders.
One recent charterer comes to the area with a small landing barge, half a dozen motorbikes and an equal number of newly-gore-texed tourists smiling sheepishly as they head up the local track to take in the sights…at speed. They zoom about the island for an hour or so and get back to the ship in time for happy hour. All very civilized in a sanitary, distant kind of way. But I confess to feeling a bit like an untouchable.
Sally says says I should feel that way.
I shouldn’t really. And it is just a feeling. Like I am being watched, kinda. Probably one that every local feels when stranger-tourists invade for the day and keep a respectful-but-aloof distance. Most of them shut off their engines when close. The guides are professional. It’s not a bad thing.
Mind you, if I was as large as our mama humpy (don’t say it!) and had a tail with huge flukes, I just might flip a few of them off now and then. You know….just for the fun of it.
Envy and ego – that’s what truly separates us from the beasts……….