Finding my calling

By: Hannah Peck, high school alumna High School Adventures, Wildlife Biology

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.