As humpback whales and their calves return to B.C. waters, one photographer captured a special moment near the Discovery Islands.
Martin Ryer, from Courtenay, was hoping to photograph whales on June 18 when he went touring with Wild Waterways Adventures. Not only did he encounter whales multiple times, but he was also at the right spot and time.
Within the first 45 minutes of the tour, they encountered three humpback whales on their way to an area Ryer calls "whale passage." It's an area that can be tricky to navigate, as Ryer found in the past when travelling on a sea kayak, as it's a maze of islands with harsh weather, tide and current conditions.
But luck was on his side this time.
"Off to our right, we saw what we thought were logs in the water," Ryer said.
To their surprise, it was a humpback whale and a calf.
"I'd say we were 400 metres away when the humpbacks really started to launch," he said. "She breached, I believe, five times, continuously."
The professional photographer was ready for the moment, which he deemed "a humpback party," and was able to capture the massive whale airborne in his photos.
"These animals are 15 metres long, and they can weigh anywhere from 60- to 80,000 pounds," Ryer said. "So to see that repetitive behaviour was pretty unique."
As the other whale was breaching, the calf did pectoral slaps on the water for about five minutes.
"For that to continue on was pretty extraordinary," he said. "It was pretty amazing to experience."
Back in May, Ryer was lucky to see another humpback whale breach and is shocked he's seen this happen twice in one year.
"I've spent hundreds upon hundreds if not thousands of hours, all throughout coastal British Columbia and only once at a distance have I seen a humpback breach," he said. "It's looking like my 2024 calendar feature is going to be humpbacks."
The Marine Education Research Society uses some of Ryer's photographs to assist with their data collection and help identify the whales.
"They're working hard in the background to identify which animal it was, so it's gonna be exciting to find out that once we do if we can," he said.
To view Ryer's work, visit his website.