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‘Experience of a lifetime:’ Career oceanographer’s humpback sighting off Victoria

Water surprisingly calm when whales surfaced near Ogden Point, paddler says
Outrigger canoe paddlers glide toward one of two humpback whales observed in the waters off Ogden Point in Victoria on Saturday (Nov. 27). (Photo by Amanda Jean Carl)

Bill Buckingham spent his life travelling up and down the coast working as an oceanographer, but said he’s never seen a humpback as close up as he did this past weekend.

He was out coaching a group of paddlers for the Latitude 48 Outrigger club on Saturday (Nov. 27), around 400 metres off Victoria’s Ogden Point, when he saw two humpback whales spouting in the distance.

“As we paddled further, we saw them floating again and a little closer and closer, and I said, ‘Oh it looks like you’re headed this way,’” he said. “So we just stopped paddling and we kind of grouped up loosely and just watched, because we didn’t want to get in the way or anything.”

Having just watched the IMAX movie about humpback whales playing at the Royal B.C. Museum, Buckingham said it was the “experience of a lifetime” seeing them so up close.

“Boy oh boy, it’s so big close up, it was just stunning,” he said. “You think there’s going to be a big wave, but there’s nothing, it was just totally calm.”

A crowd of fellow club members was standing on shore and managed to catch the spectacle. As for the people on the boat, there were a range of reactions.

“The lady in the front of the canoe, who shall remain nameless, turned around and said, ‘I think I peed myself.’ Whereas the head coach Jim Pearson, was standing up at the stern of the canoe taking photos on his phone.”

While the weather was far from ideal last weekend, Buckingham said the sighting was a testament to the mantra, “rain or shine.”

“Guys waiting for the bluebird days, you’re limiting your opportunities.”

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