Great Bear Rainforest - Day Six

Posted on 20th November, 2023

The day began with thick fog. We could hear the wolves howling again, although not so close and visibility was restricted to a few metres - wonderfully atmospheric but perhaps not ideal wildlife spotting conditions! Nevertheless we went towards the shore in the zodiacs and waited to see what might happen. Plenty of activity from salmon, Bonaparte gulls, ravens and sea lions, to name but a few. It was just magical sitting there in silence listening to the sound of the wilderness.

Before heading back for breakfast, we did a little circuit of the bay to see what we might find. There was plenty more of the lovely bull kelp that had caught my eye on the previous evening and the fog definitely helped to simplify the somewhat chaotic patterns in the above.

I also spotted some slightly more sparse areas which made for wonderful minimalism on the calm sea and with the fog still thick. We also spotted a mink, right on the shoreline and watched him scuttling around for a while. As ever, I was drawn to the lovely combination of trees and rock around the bay, and the fog was once again a help in making it all look slightly less mad busy!

Soon after we returned to the boat, the fog began to lift a little, revealing more of our stunning surroundings - tantalising glimpses of form and colour slowly appearing, only to disappear again moments later.

Yet more bull kelp - the start of a new fetish I think! I loved the way this one looked like a miniature sea otter floating on the mirror-like surface of the sea.

I found myself seriously distracted from the very important business of enjoying another delicious breakfast - thankfully my multi-tasking skills were just about up to the job and I managed to dart around, in between mouthfuls of breakfast, photographing endless beautiful scenery.

The partial views were stunning and so transient in nature, every so often the sun becoming a little too bright and hot to handle, meaning I needed to find compositions where I could exclude the brightest patches of sky.

The wake was a times a hindrance, but more often than not it gave a helping hand, creating amazing reflected patterns and colours.

With the sun getting stronger, we were also treated to an incredibly intense and luminous fog bow - the brightest one I have seen - it stayed with us for several minutes, before the fog thickened once again, allowing just the faintest views towards the shoreline. Perhaps a bit too minimalist for some, and certainly for Rob, who was somewhat underwhelmed when I showed him this one ;)

We'd started to move again now and were heading back out towards Squally Channel. Stunning scenery in every direction and simply magical conditions - it was very hard not to get carried away!

For the most part I've been very keen to stick with colour - partly because they were just so beautifully harmonious. But a black and white conversion for the image above just shaded it - bad pun intended...

In fact I didn't even try not to get carried away - it was such a treat to see this wonderful part of the world in the sort of conditions I'd dreamed of and when you are constantly on the move, you of course want to make sure you don't miss anything.

My 70-200mm lens was perfect, once again, giving me excellent range for what I was seeing. And yes, sorry, definitely carried away! For those of an age to have seen Monty Python and the Holy Grail when it first released in the cinema - think John Cleese and gondalas in the pre film trailer... ;)

In all seriousness, though, part of the reason for this blog was to document a trip of a lifetime and to include photos that might otherwise never see the light of day; and it's been lovely reminding myself of what an incredible morning it was.

We were heading for Gil Island and the whale research. We went ashore and spent a fascinating hour with the team there, learning a bit about the research they do and also listening to their nerve-tingling recordings of whale song. Just incredible! They were also pretty impressed to hear of all the amazing sightings we'd had on our trip.

As well as being a great place to spot wildlife, their viewing platform of course also offered yet more wonderful views! By the time we were back onboard, the fog had all but disippated and we headed in a north-easterly direction through an area that typically sees a lot of whale activity. We saw plenty of humpbacks but they were mostly going about their business in a rather calm manner - so we kept going, enjoying the beautiful weather and scenery and waiting to see what the next big excitement would be.

It was probably a few hours until that moment came, but it is one that will I hope be forever imprinted in my brain. I was just about to walk back inside the wheelhouse when I noticed something had disturbed the surface of the sea just a little distance ahead. I put my binoculars up to my eyes and suddenly my whole field of vision was filled with an enormous humpback whale shooting out of the water, pectoral fins outstretched. Just the most extraordinary moment, particularly as it was a complete surprise - I'm not sure what I was expecting to see, but certainly not that!

It would have made an extraordinary photo, but that first sighting of a breaching whale was something to experience without the camera. As it was, we were treated to about 15 minutes of repeated breachings, by both this adult, mother humpback and her much smaller calf.

We think they breached around 30 times in total. Unbelievable! How on earth they find the energy to do that is beyond me, and I believe there is still no clear understanding of why they do it.  The light was harsh which made for the occasional focussing challenge, and plenty of processing challenges; however the backdrop was very sypathetic at times.

It was amazing to see the different ways in which the mother, in particular, would launch herself out of the water - so powerful! Then the way in which she would contort herself mid air, before landing and creating the most almighty splash. The photo below is the final one from that particular breaching sequence.

Perhaps my favourite maenouvre was the 360 degree twist, which I've tried to illustrate via a tripytch of three photos from a sequence of multiple frames.

Eventually mother and calf decided to call it a day, but not before they had amazed us with their exhuberant display of power and agility. Nature really is extraordinary.

After a 'relatively' quiet day from a wildlife perspective, another out-of-this-world experience on our trip - we couldn't believe our luck. We continued on our way towards Gribbell Island, following part of its shoreline to look out for black bears. We didn't spot any, but the wonderful forested shoreline caught my eye as usual

More dead pine trees, interspersed amongst healthy growth, making for plenty of interesting compositions, full of texture and repeated patterns. And, as so often, the patination of the rock just above the tide level was incredible. Such beautiful tones and pattterns.

The sun was starting to set as we made our way north into Ursula Channel where we were briefly joined by some Dall's porpoises and spotted yet more humpbacks, before anchoring at Bishop Bay. Another expectation defying day had come to an end!

It may seem a little unintuitive, but please click on the PREV link/button below for the final blog about our trip.