East Point, Saturna, BC

East Point, on Saturna Island, is one of the very best locations in the Southern Gulf Islands of Canada to see orcas from land. The Southern Resident Pods swim past East Point from May to November as they travel from the Pacific Ocean to the Fraser River Delta, which is one of their favorite feeding grounds. The orcas often swim very close to the sandstone cliffs, along the kelp beds on the south side of East Point and through Boiling Reef on the east side. Transient orca groups are seen throughout the year.

East Point has two parks. The actual point is part of the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve and the south side is a park within the Capital Regional District. A former Fog Alarm Building (FAB) has been restored and made into a place filled with stories about Saturna's history. Here, you will find the story of Moby Doll, the first orca to be captured and examined by scientists in 1964. The building is operated by volunteers on summer weekends. There is a small beach almost entirely composed of naturally crushed shells, awesome sculpted sandstone cliffs and a low-tide walkable sandstone beach filled with sea stars, anemones and many other intertidal invertebrates. It's a place to see breath-taking sunrises and sunsets, Mount Baker, the Olympic Mountains and the Northshore Mountains beyond Vancouver. In the evening, the lights of Orcas Island, Bellingham, Birch Bay, Point Roberts and Vancouver can be seen in the distance.

Where the Whales Are

The best place to see the whales is anywhere along the east and south sides of the parks. There is a high vantage point where whales can be seen underwater as they swim through the kelp. There are many cosy niches in the stone bluffs where one can get a fantastic ringside seat. East Point is a birthing place for harbour seals in the summer and a haul-out place for sea lions in the winter. Harbour porpoise and river otters are regulars, minke and humpback whales are occasional visitors.

Moby Doll

Moby Doll was harpooned at East Point, Saturna Island in July 1964 but the shot was supposed to end with a kill, not a capture. The Vancouver Aquarium wanted a dead killer whale for study and to model for a large sculpture that was to hang in the new aquarium’s foyer. The harpooned whale was only injured, however, and Vancouver Aquarium director Dr. Murray Newman quickly decided to lead the wounded orca to Vancouver Harbour for study.
 
Moby Doll thus became the first killer whale to be captured and displayed in public but the orca survived for just under three months. However, during that brief time, Moby Doll became an international media super-star. Life Magazine, Reader’s Digest, The Times of London, major television networks as well as many Canadian and US newspapers, magazines and television stations, sent reporters and correspondents to Vancouver to tell this whale of a tale to world-wide audiences. More importantly, Moby Doll’s capture marked the beginning of a world-wide scientific quest to learn more about orcas. And today, because we know so much more about this beautiful, majestic animal, we’re well on our way to making sure that orcas continue to thrive in their natural habitats and thrill many of our future generations.
 
A special event, Moby Doll Orca Symposium: Reflection of Change, was held on Saturna, May 25, 2013 to honour Moby Doll and reflect on that time in history.

Summer Friday Nights at East Point

Through July and August, on Friday evenings, the local park interpreter organizes an informal get-together on the grassy point adjacent to Boiling Reef for Saturna residents and visitors. It's dinner time for the seals and they splash around as the event unfolds. An invited local resident speaks about their life on the island, a Saturna musician performs, some marine jokes and quotes are exchanged and everyone watches the sunset and moonrise, which can often be seen simultaneously from that vantage point. These are magical moments on Saturna and shouldn't be missed.

Natural History

Boiling Reef extends into the Salish Sea where the waters from the Fraser River meet Haro Strait. There is a natural upwelling here which brings an abundance of plankton and fish. The marine area is rich in rockfish and invertebrates, including Giant Pacific Octopus.

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Marine Mammals Commonly Seen Here

Marine Mammals Occasionally Seen Here

Marine Mammals Rarely Seen Here

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