I still remember January 23, 2013 clearly; I was spending the night with my best friend celebrating her birthday when I got the email that changed my life forever. I was accepted to come to Orcalab; a lifelong dream came true! The next month I was asked to come as early as I possibly could so I changed my plane ticket without a moment’s hesitation and left soon after my last exam. Saying I was ecstatic was an understatement!
I arrived at Orcalab on April 26, after a few minor luggage setbacks which worked themselves out thankfully! (It’s always a scary time when your ENTIRE luggage including tents clothes sleeping bag etc. disappears from the taxi for about 30 minutes!) I was then finally on my way to Alert Bay. I had always had this vision of what Orcalab would look like, but boy when I arrived was I ever blown away! It truly exceeded all my expectations, but for the first time ever I felt like I was at home and belonged somewhere. The first couple of days were busy and there was so much to learn and monitor but I couldn’t have been happier.
Settling into Hanson Island wasn’t hard and I got to experience the company of two of the warmest and most kind hearted people I have ever met; Paul and Helena. I spent a wonderful couple of days with them and then my next adventure began: being alone on Hanson Island and making sure Orcalab was running smoothly! I had been alone before but being completely isolated on an island and having to check energy consumption was completely new to me; so the first few days consisted of me constantly running back to the main house, only to find out I hadn’t used any energy since I had last checked it 5 minutes ago. I also got very good at making fires to keep warm and chopping wood. There are a lot of chores to do to keep a place like this going, but I really enjoyed learning all these new skills, as well as meeting all the random visitors who come to the island as well as our numerous guests and new assistants.
I have had a passion for orcas, and Orcalab since a very young age. It has been a lifelong dream to spend time here and it’s been such an honor to spend these past couple of months here learning and sharing these experiences with Paul and Helena. They have been so patient and kind and I have loved every second spent here. Finally being able to surround myself by such passionate and knowledgeable people is truly inspiring. It’s hard to describe how happy I am being able to hear and see orcas on an almost daily basis now as well as seeing humpbacks, porpoises, dolphins, seals, sea lions, bald eagles and so much more nestled amongst these stunning mountain ranges.
Everyone kept asking me; aren’t you afraid to be alone?! My answer was always no. It’s hard to fear such an amazing place/experience. It was something I needed, to be alone, and I found peace, tranquility and myself. I know leaving here and going back to reality will be extremely tough but I know I am coming out a stronger more independent person, mentally and physically, so thank you Orcalab!
Story and photos by Kate Christie
July 27 2013