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Our trips are one-of-a-kind, life changing adventures. But don’t just take our word for it.
- This experience is something I will always remember! I made great friends ...
- This trip was an amazing experience that I will never forget. Seeing ...
- My daughter departed for her trip excited but apprehensive. She came ...
- This trip was the perfect means for my daughter to confirm that marine ...
- This is the third straight year our daughter has gone on a Broadreach ...
- Kirsten loved the trip. It was a very different experience from her Belize ...
- Lia had very positive things to say about the trip. She learned a great ...
- The Marine Mammal Adventure program my daughter went on was a first class ...
- I won’t look at things in my life the same way again. My Broadreach experience ...
- Looking back at all my summers on the water, this trip tipped the scale ...
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“Come on, Megan, let’s run the trail back.” “No way!” I replied automatically to Greg, our team leader, who was already jogging off down the path. I ran to catch up to him. There was definitely ...“Come on, Megan, let’s run the trail back.”
“No way!” I replied automatically to Greg, our team leader, who was already jogging off down the path. I ran to catch up to him. There was definitely no way.
The hike up to Eagle Eye, a research station on a cliff overlooking the vast expanse of water that was Johnstone Strait, had been more arduous than I had expected. It was not long—only five kilometers, as opposed to the hike we had taken about a week before that had been 22 kilometers, or 14 miles, and longer than I had ever walked before. However, this hike was over much rougher ground, quick, steep uphills followed by sudden drops, through a dense choke of ancient trees and ferns that were as tall as my shoulders and as wide as I could spread my arms. British Columbia is the land of the enormous. The trees are gnarled with the story of their age, and have an immensity that seemed impossible. Sea stars three feet wide or more crawl in the shallows of Johnstone Strait, and 100 feet offshore the watery abyss plummets 2,000 feet straight down. And then there are the whales, of course. They are the giants of the sea.
Though I insisted to Greg that I couldn’t possibly run the trail back, he pushed me. He ran ahead, and I found myself running with him, weaving through the trunks and jumping down the declines, finding the quick rhythm of the strange combination of jogging and walking that is trail running. Every few minutes Greg would look back and ask if I needed a break, and I would surprise myself by saying, “No, not yet, I can go farther.” I didn’t know how it was possible, but I could. And somewhere down that trail my thinking changed. I stopped humoring Greg and began thinking about just how far I could run before walking again. Come on, just get to the top of this hill, and then I can fly down the other side. We paused to lean against a tree that had been blackened and gutted by lightning. I gulped water, then air. I was still a little out of breath when Greg suggested we go on, but I didn’t say no.
I knew that we were reaching the end of the trail when the light changed. It became yellower and brilliant, the color of open space against the muted, gray-green darkness of the thick forest. Spaces opened above us and in front of us. “Let’s run the rest of the way,” Greg said, and took off, and now I was game for it. As we ran into the light, I remember thinking that it was an impossible thing that after that whole trail I was now running full out, I who had never run in my life. But I was. The trail curved sinuously back and forth, through tall grass now, under an open sky. And then we were there, and I was still running, running all the way up into the shed where my two friends were waiting, and they looked up from their books, startled, as I pranced in through the door and collapsed into a chair. Greg was already there, and we smiled at each other. He had tested me, and I was glad of it now, for I had passed.
“What, you ran all the way back?” asked Rachael incredulously.
I laughed through gasps of air. I am stronger than I knew.
Greg went out to talk to the warden of the Robson Bight Ecological Reserve, Trish, who had brought my two friends Rachael and Jess back from Eagle Eye in her warden boat. Greg had needed one person to come with him back down the trail, and as I had been sticking with him all day as he went out on the warden boat to look for whales, it seemed logical that I would be the one to come with him once more. Now I lounged in the shed with Rachael and Jess, reading a book and munching on sweet maple sugar cookies, as we waited for Trish to be ready to take us back to Telegraph Cove in her boat. After a time, she came to the shed for us, and she led us down to the boat launch.
Getting into the warden boat involved carefully levering ourselves down a sheer cliff of black rock onto a ledge. My legs, still a little wobbly from the trail, trembled a little down that cliff, but I made it with some help from my friends. Once we all had our feet safely in the boat, Trish began rapid-firing commands at us. We had been given the supreme pleasure of being passengers on many private boats throughout the month, and we paid for our passage the best we could by doing whatever the captain told us to do.
Trish, the warden of the Robson Bight Ecological Reserve, is a woman with enormous character and an even bigger laugh. She is dark-skinned and tenacious and she is made for water like a duck; she would have made a good pirate. Her job is to keep boats out of the Reserve, which is closed to water traffic. Her passion is observing and protecting the orca whales of British Columbia, the great black-and-white dolphins of the sea. The night before, Greg had told me excitedly, “Wait until you meet the warden, Megan. She’s just like you, only older. Obsessed with the orcas. You’re gonna love her.” He was right. Out on the boat earlier that day, I had gotten to know Trish, who spoke with the Scottish-sounding lilt of her native Nova Scotia and called roiling seas “snotty,” and rainy weather “gross.” I came to realize that though we are similar in our love of the orcas of British Columbia, she is not exactly like me. Rather, she is the kind of person I aspire to be. Confident, energetic, and strong, she has found her path in life, and she was a role model for me during the brief period in which I knew her.
Trish’s boat was a familiar sort to us, a type of inflatable motorboat called a Zodiac. I had ridden in one of these before on the trip, but this one was bigger—perhaps thirteen feet from bow to stern—and it was old. Duct tape and marks of wear patterned its sides as if, in its years of service, it had earned merit badges and ornaments of honor. I positioned myself near the bow, and Trish gunned the boat away from the cliffs. We all whooped as the Zodiac reared up against the churning gray waves, and the five of us—Rachael, Jess, Trish, Greg and I—braced against the wind as we flew over the surface.
The passage was long and very cold. The air over Johnstone Strait is chilly, and moreover it had begun to rain down on us. The cold rain mingled with the cold sea spray, and the two were indistinguishable. I was soon unable to feel my hands hanging on the ropes of the Zodiac, and my face stung deliciously. Jess withdrew further and further into her rain jacket, until we could only see her nose and smiling eyes. Trish stood at the wheel, swaying with the rhythm of the boat and occasionally looking over her shoulder to tease Greg, who had been forced to fold his tall self into the small space behind Trish. Rachael and I sat across from each other at the bow, and we leaned full-faced into the gale, rocking back and forth as the boat skipped across the waves. We sang. I felt enormously alive.
And then, suddenly, there was a whale dead ahead of us, not more than 100 feet away, a massive black fin knifing the surface. The orca blew explosively. Terror and awe mingled in me and burst out of my mouth in a scream as we rocketed toward the orca, and then Trish pulled the key out of the ignition and we were still.
I scrambled to my feet. The massive bull orca sculled at the surface for a moment, turning this way and that, as though he was confused at our boat’s sudden lapse into silence. We watched the whale and he watched us. Then, giving us a wide berth and surfacing frequently—as if, I thought, to tell us where he was so that we didn’t again risk a collision—he swept past our Zodiac with unspeakable majesty and grace, and continued down Johnstone Strait. My spirit caught in my throat.
We continued, but then there were more of them. Trish cut the engine once more. A family of orcas surrounded us. Their breath rushed into the air in white clouds, two, three blows at a time, and then they were away again. Underwater, they called back and forth to each other, always in touch with their family, never alone. Above the water, we five humans in our boat stood, and watched, and said nothing. We had only to look into each other’s eyes to say what we felt. A whale to our starboard side surfaced and crooned a high call into the air, and Trish and I laughed and hugged each other in wonder and joy. As the whales glided past us in their watery realm, we all looked to each other with tears in our eyes. I trembled from the cold, and from my awe at the beautiful world around me, at the huge sky and water of the Strait, at the orcas, the spirits of the wild around me, and at my boundless love for the people with me. As the sky began to clear and pale sunshine broke through the clouds, I closed my eyes and I promised myself that I would not forget this day, and that somehow, I would find my way back to British Columbia.
- Megan McGrath, Warwick, NY
Static erupted over the radio and then a clear voice said, "Lukwa, we have had some sightings of pacific white sides" I made my way to the station at the bow of the boat, excited to hear about ...Static erupted over the radio and then a clear voice said, "Lukwa, we have had some sightings of pacific white sides" I made my way to the station at the bow of the boat, excited to hear about prospective dolphins in the area. It was my first day as a naturalist-in-training aboard the Lukwa, a whale watching vessel off the eastern coast of Vancouver Island. I had learned about the Broadreach Program through a flyer in the mail and decided to give the course, Marine Mammal Adventure, a try. I don't know what inspired me to leave the comfort of my home, family, and friends to go live in the wilderness, learn about marine mammals, camp, kayak, and bond with a group of strangers for 3 weeks, but I will never regret it. I had been through a college course in marine biology before, off the coast of Maine, and thoroughly enjoyed it. This time I wanted to go through a similar experience in a different area of the world and determine if I wanted to not only seriously study, but actually pursue a career in marine biology someday.
I didn't get my hopes up about the dolphins, as we had just seen a number of humpback whales and I didn't want to be disappointed. We cruised into a cove and in the distance I saw objects twirling through the sky, jumping so far out of the water I couldn't believe that they were dolphins. As we drew near, pacific white-sided dolphins came along either side of the boat. They got closer and closer and Jackie, the head naturalist for Stubbs Island Whale Watching, began shouting, "Look down at your feet! Look straight down!" I stood against the railing and about 10 feet below me were seven dolphins riding the bow. They were a lot larger than I expected, and moved through the water with effortless grace, weaving up and down and around each other, so close that I felt like I could reach down and touch them. I wondered how they could possibly keep up with the boat and to my amazement, they would rush ahead and jump out of the water to breathe before returning to the bow. I was filled with awe because I had never before witnessed such natural wonder up close. I was also amazed because I didn't know that wild animals behaved like this and it made me realize that the natural world is a very exciting place.
That day I knew I had found my calling. The thrill of being out on the open water, refreshed by the light breeze and coasting on the calm blue waters enticed me. Witnessing these majestic mammals in their natural habitats showed me that the world had a lot more to offer; a world I had previously passed by. Jackie stressed the negative impact mankind has had upon all marine life and this inspired me. I know I can make a positive difference on this earth, be it large or small. Having seen the wonders of Vancouver Island, I am determined to learn about this unseen aquatic underworld and help to preserve the animals that live there. While many stood at the railing that day and simply saw dolphins...I saw my future unfolding before me.
Nine teens, including myself, and two adult leaders made up the program designated PWT-21, or Pacific Whale Trek, a Broadreach trip to Vancouver Island. Towards the end of the trip, our group ...Nine teens, including myself, and two adult leaders made up the program designated PWT-21, or Pacific Whale Trek, a Broadreach trip to Vancouver Island. Towards the end of the trip, our group was camping on a small island in Johnstone Strait, having just finished a week working with a local whale watching company. Our first day there, our guide regaled us with hope about possibly spotting some killer whales, who were known to frequent the waters around the small Sophia Island. Later that night, after the sun had set and we had retired to our tents, I heard a familiar sound coming from one of the rocky shores near my tent. However familiar the sound, it didn’t register with me until someone cried out, “WHALE”! It reverberated through the trees as I scurried out onto the trails to try to find a beach on the correct side of the island where the whales were, all the while listening to that telltale blow.
My heart pounding, I finally climbed out onto the rocks and sat down, my eyes scanning the water for merely a glimpse of the orcas. I could hear the sound of their exhalations of breath and follow it through their lungs. It was too dark to see them, but I knew they were there.
The experience was frustrating but at the same time exhilarating. I don’t think that it would have affected me nearly as much had I been able to see them. By hearing alone, I could tell that they were close, their splashes echoed off the channel, and my imagination filled in what my eyes missed.
I stayed on the rocks for a few minutes, enjoying the thrill before I went to the kitchen, the main headquarters of the island where everyone gathered, and met up with some of the other trekkers. Someone had turned on the hydrophone, but all that was coming from it were the noises of boats in the area, no whales. The A-24’s, the orcas, were usually very quiet when they were traveling, but we all listened hopefully anyway. We were all very quiet as if speaking would scare them away, but as time passed and the whales moved away we were too excited to keep it to ourselves. We gushed about how cool the experience was and how lucky we were, that although we couldn’t see them, we could hear them. Eventually we all split up again, because it had now gotten quite late, and went to sleep, each of us happy beyond belief.
That night was one of the most spiritual of my entire life. I had feelings that I had never known before. Listening to the sound of such a majestic creature simply breathing recharged my spirit. No gift I could ever receive could be as precious to me as that one night. Simple as it was, I feel that it changed me as if suddenly everything clicked into place. I was perfectly content to sit there in the dark because I was at peace. And I was not the only one affected in such a way.
I knew then and there that no matter what happened, no matter what life threw at me, I had to somehow involve these animals in my life. I had to protect them and help educate people about the dangers that they face, how we have to increase our conservation efforts for posterity’s sake. I wanted future generations to be able to experience what Mother Nature graced me with, and to not have to look at pictures in a textbook at animals that human kind had driven to extinction.