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Our ship, the Maple Leaf, cruises into Bishop Bay. The late afternoon sun casts light across the steep glacier-carved cliffs which guide us in. Reflections on glassy water mirror blue skies, mountains and vibrant green forests. The atmosphere invites personal awareness and inner peacefulness.

Tranquility is interrupted by a resounding spout of water shot skyward into a misty plume. Ahead of us a humpback whale surfaces to breathe. The mirror images fracture as the giant’s back parts the sea. Two more blows follow as a mother and her calf reveal themselves. We watch as the three raise their flukes in unison and disappear. All that remains is an upwelling current and the tiny rainbows in their lingering breaths.

Moments later we notice a ring of bubbles forming in the water on our port side. At the center, dark shapes come surging to the surface and we find ourselves staring into mouths full of baleen. For the first time we have just seen bubble net feeding.

Bishop Bay is no longer silent and the air is filled with the sounds of whales. Some of these animals are hurling themselves into the air and pirouetting creating an explosion of water followed by an echoing “kaploosh”. We cannot believe our eyes. The incoming tide has brought herring in the bay followed by hungry whales. We count 18 whales and realize that we are witnessing a grand feast. An hour has passed; we are humbled knowing we have just been in the presence of something much greater than ourselves.

Words by naturalist Matthew Burnaby, photo by Greg Shea