Sound skims over the water like a flat stone, distorting distance while betraying those of us who would move silently through the morning fog of the inside passage. The
blow of several Orcas filters through the mist, and I sense they are near. It is summer in British Columbia, and transient whales are following schools of Salmon heading north to spawn. My kayak allows me silent entrée to their world. To a whale I am but one more errant log floating in the littoral, and I minimize my movements to maintain that cover. The first blow of a morning always triggers a memory. It was almost one year ago to the day while paddling near the same spot, I watched these animals conduct a funeral. A horizon is a rare sight on a British Columbia morning as fog and mist often merge water and land. The whales made their way gradually through the haze like puffs of smoke, emerging like silent wraiths into a black and white world. setting the mood for what I was to witness.
I was powering my way through a raft of bull kelp when the first blow reached my ears. A large bull led the way, cruising through the mist like an apparition, bearing a stillborn
calf across his rostrum. I stopped where I was, anchored by kelp, with a perfect seat for what I assumed would be a most private ritual. The calf, still bright pink, slumped over his snout like a limp rag, its head and flukes trailing under the surface. The bull moved slowly, not blowing, and five smaller whales followed in single order until they reached deep water in the center of the channel. The bull stopped, gently balancing his silent charge, while the other whales drew alongside. The bull slowly lowered his head, and the stillborn whale sank into the depths. The pain of their loss hung in the air, thicker than the fog. An old female, most likely the matriarch, lob-tailed the water twice, perhaps in silent goodbye, or maybe just a signal that they were finished, but as she did, all six Orcas sounded in unison. They knew I was there and ignored me. A thousand thoughts came to me as I realized what I had just been gifted, and a wave of empathy washed over me.