I had just finished sweeping the chimney last Sunday. I refastened the wire harness that secures the chimney cap, and started to ease the cramps in my leg muscles from clinging to the roof peak, when I heard loud splashes out on the water. I saw several bodies hurtling out of the water in shallow jumps, slapping back down in bursts of spray. They moved too quickly, and splashed too much to see what they were. They moved fast in purposeful lines past our beach.
Porpoises move like this when they hunt, but we always see their gray bodies, if only briefly, as they move. I couldn’t see any part of the animal, no flash of skin or scale. I called to Michelle, but she’d already run down to the beach to watch. She looked up channel and shouted, “Killer whales!” A moment later, a small pod of killer whales swept past her, making similar lunges out of the water as they pursued the splashing creatures ahead of them.
Apparently, the whales pursued salmon—fairly good-sized ones—past the beach. Each lunge brought most of each whale’s body out of the water in a clean, bright arc. Their exhalations blasted puffs of steam into the air as they disappeared again.
I crouched on the cabin roof, trying to keep my center of gravity low as my head swam with excitement. I shouted to Michelle to ask where the camera was.
“Forget it!” she shouted, “It’s inside. Just watch!”
I felt like I had the best seat, but soon realized that because of the windbreak of trees in front of the cabin, I could see the whale’s splashes, but the whales themselves were often obscured by branches. Carefully and quickly, I rode the safety line down the roof to the ladder, scrambled down, and ran out to the beach for the rest of the show.
As often happens, I have no photos to share. Pursuers and prey moved too fast for a digital camera shutter anyway. I could do no more than stare wide-eyed, storing the memories.
I recalled that we had talked to Aly on the phone just the day before. She asked if we’d seen much wildlife lately. We complained that we’d seen no whales since we’d returned from driving her to college. That afternoon, 3-4 humpback whales passed close to the beach. The next day, we had killer whales. Things had definitely changed for the better.