Virtual whale watching serves as pandemic stand-in for the real thing
Keith Phillips, in Tofino, B.C., says his first tour, with a summer camp, was a success
The pandemic has upended much of social interaction as we know it, but one whale-watching company in Tofino, B.C., has come up with a creative solution to bring the West Coast's whales to the worldwide web.
Keith Phillips, a captain with West Coast Aquatic Safaris, wanted to come up with a virtual solution for a group of kids at an Easter Seals summer camp.
"We all wanted to do it for the camp ... and make something for them," Phillips said.
However, there were a couple of major issues to deal with first: One was getting enough bandwidth from the remote coastal areas to stream the footage, and the other was how Phillips would be able to film the tour while also driving the boat.
In the end, Phillips worked with Media One, a video production company based on Vancouver Island. They left early in the morning on the day of the tour, filmed the tour and asked Phillips questions along the way.
"Then [I] used the raw footage and then guided that footage essentially from my office, so that we knew we had the secure bandwidth," he said.
The kids, who watched via Zoom, were able to ask questions while they were on the "tour" as well as re-watch and replay specific behaviours, like humpback lunge feeding.
"[It's] kind of like Hockey Night in Canada," Phillips said with a laugh.
Phillips said there was an enthusiastic response to the tour, with the camp asking for two more. It also opens up the possibility of doing virtual tours for a broader audience, especially when regular clients from Europe, the United States and elsewhere are not flying in.
"Can people whale-watch from Saskatchewan? Or Manitoba? Is this a reality? Not everyone has the opportunity to make it out to our West Coast and to have that real time whale-watch," he said.
"We'd love to be able to bring it for other people."
Listen to the full interview on CBC's All Points West:
With files from All Points West