A Different Kind of Pipeline Failure

Picture this. A glorious summer day, Marie and I are walking out on a jetty – a pipeline actually – that stretches four kilometres into the ocean. Clouds make gorgeous skittered patterns across an immense blue sky.  The sun has not been up long and the muted colours are vibrant but soft. A beautiful landscape for sure. The ocean has receded on both sides of our raised causeway, leaving shallow pools and geometrically carved sand banks. Herons fish a few paces from shore. Eagles sit majestically on several logs that stick out from the boulders, placed on either side to protect this engineering marvel. Cormorants sun themselves on pilings, while the occasional jet passes directly overhead, to land at YVR airport on the delta of Lulu Island, Richmond. 

An idyllic location by any standard, right out of a National Geographic program. My iPhone is in my hand ready to capture this beauty when I see a head bobbing in the shallow water close to my location – a seal perhaps? No, it’s a river otter and as she leaves the water to run across a sand bank I can see she carries a really large salmon in her sharp teeth. I’m watching all this on the screen of the iPhone. How amazing is this? I was ready to go and this happens right in front of me. I even have my camera set to video mode and I’m watching a rare sight indeed. As the otter re-enters the water of the last shallow pool before the causeway, perhaps ten feet to go before the boulders, an enormous eagle swoops and crashes the water inches from the otter’s head. The fish is the prize, and nature can be harsh. My stomach goes over. Watching the screen to ensure the footage is steady and straight, I did not see the unfolding of this drama – the eagle just suddenly appeared in the frame. Now the otter is swimming for her life. In seconds she reaches shore, fifty feet from my vantage point. The eagle is frantic, they both are – I catch words on the wind – “This fish is mine!” I want the otter to win and yet I know the drama of the fish being stolen away by the eagle would create more drama for my viewers. This footage could become one of those viral videos, with millions of plays on Youtube. My heart races slightly, but I focus to ensure I’m getting the shot.

The otter scampers up the boulders of the causeway, twisting this way and that while gripping the salmon in her teeth. The eagle is focused – bombing with outstretched talons, only just missing the otter as she skilfully maneuvers to avoid the relentless pursuit. As suddenly as this battle began the scene changes. The otter disappears unharmed into a crevice in the rocks still clinging to the fish. The eagle lets out a piercing shriek in disgust at his failure and turns away  to glide serenely towards the horizon. All is calm – my heart slows – my vista returns to picturesque – all is as it should be. That is, it would be, had I remembered to press record on my camera! I have nothing except the experience. My scream of disgust equals that of the eagle’s. As he flies away, he turns his head to see where the scream emanated.  I feel his gaze – we share a connection. I realise the scream from the eagle was not disgust, his scream was exhilaration. He spoke, “That was awesome!” I totally agree!