With sodden shoes, I took careful steps while running at sunset on the Rushbrook Trail.
The air was still, minus the footfalls of my running buddies, which included two playful pups that chased each other into the bushes. Then, as abrupt and unexpected as a gunshot — at least in Prince Rupert — we heard the spray of a whale as it broke the surface of the water mere metres from the edge of the trail.
We ran to a clearing to spot a humpback whale dipping in and out of the sea as the sun faded in the distance.
Humpback whales typically migrate to warmer climates in the winter. It would be less surprising to see them on a run in Hawaii than along Rushbrook, and they’re more commonly seen outside the harbour.
To do my due diligence, I reported the sighting to Caitlin Birdsall, the coordinator of North Coast Cetacean Research Initiative for the Vancouver Aquarium.
She informed me there is one group of humpback whales that have been hanging out in the area from December to January. She suspects their motivation to stick around is food related.
Researchers are still trying to determine exactly why the massive cetateans are lingering in the harbour during the winter months, which is why it’s important to report whale sightings in the area.
Caitlin asked if I saw the whale fluking. This was a new term for me. She meant: did I see the tail, or the two lobes of the tail — the flukes — come out of the water. I didn’t, although I have spotted the flukes of a humpback whale in the outer harbour once before — another incredible North Coast moment.
Based on my apparent lack of whale knowledge, I realized I’d better take advantage of the humpback whale information session the Vancouver Aquarium is hosting next Feb. 22 in Prince Rupert.
I’ve lived in this city for just over a year now, and it’s the hidden and unexpected gems that encourage me to continue to explore.
Five years ago, when I was living in Japan I’d often take long runs in between rural villages where I’d encounter stunning views of active volcanos, mountains and ancient shrines.
But there was one run when I came to a clearing through the forest and saw a feudal castle nestled in the village below. I felt as though I’d stepped back in time. For a moment, I thought that I’d never experience this type of wonder in Canada. Why would I ever move back?
Yet somehow I’ve found myself living on B.C.’s North Coast, and my runs have once again become a soul-filling exploration, especially after meeting a humpback whale on my run.
I’ve never been so pleased to be proven wrong.
If you are so lucky to spot a whale or sea creature in the harbour, you can report it on the WhaleReport app, through wildwhales.or or by calling 1-866-I-SAW-ONE.
This is a new column on life on the North Coast from the perspective of a relative newcomer to the community.