A pod of orcas gave visitors to Whytecliff Park in West Vancouver quite the Valentine’s Day delight this weekend, swimming close to shore as snow fell.
The magical moment on Feb. 14 was captured on video by onlookers and shared to social media during the weekend.
The occasion was particularly special for one Vancouver couple, who had just got engaged on the rocks of Whyte Islet.
Christoph Wrzosek had just popped the big question to his girlfriend of only six months, Tina Mohns, and she said "yes" when the orcas, also known as killer whales, swam by.
“When you know, you know,” Mohns told the North Shore News.
“The pod of orcas swam right toward us just moments after Christoph proposed as though to congratulate us! The symbolism of the orca says it all – family, romance, longevity, harmony, protection. What an affirmation of our love and commitment.
"We felt incredibly blessed."
Natalia Kotowska was another lucky viewer who got to see the magnificent marine mammals for the first time while out exploring West Vancouver’s sights.
Kotowska, who arrived in Vancouver from the U.K. about four months ago, said she had spontaneously decided to visit Horseshoe Bay for the day and had walked over to Whytecliff Park, when she was intrigued by a few people scrambling over rocks to a little island near the shore.
She decided to follow the small crowd to Whyte Islet, around 3 p.m., and after looking around for about 20 minutes noticed four orcas, a male and three females, swimming close by.
“They were really close,” she said. “It was incredible.”
She said the “amazing experience” was completely unexpected.
“I knew about the orcas and other whales and that's something that I was really looking forward to during springtime, because that's when I've been told that you normally see them,” said Kotowska.
“It was just going to be one of those days where I go for a walk and hopefully see an eagle, because in the U.K., where I'm from we don't have bald eagles, so I was going to try and catch one on video, but yeah, I got to see orcas instead.
“For me, seeing them was absolutely amazing and I couldn't ask for more. It's a great experience.”
Kotowska also bumped into the couple who just got engaged, and said it was "beautiful" that they got to see the orcas on their special day.
Southern resident killer whales stop by
Amber Sessions, director of communications at Ocean Wise, said viewers had spotted southern resident killer whales.
She encouraged whale watchers to record their sightings using the Ocean Wise Whale Report App.
“Logging whale sightings gives scientists at Ocean Wise and other organizations critical information to track the health of the at-risk southern resident killer whale populations (as well as other cetacean species),” said Sessions, via email. “Also, this data is fed real time to the Whale Report Alert System, which informs commercial mariners (like Ferry captains) that there are whales in the vicinity so that they can slow down, and take mitigating measures.”
She said people could also discover the best locations to see whales and learn more about shore-based whale watching on the Whale Trail.
“Shore-based whale watching is a great way to spot whales and is zero impact,” she said.
Sessions also reminded whale watchers to be “whale wise,” and to give them space, especially when in a boat or a kayak on the water.
Elisia Seeber is the North Shore News’ Indigenous and civic affairs reporter. This reporting beat is made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.