Tofino is in mourning today, as Canadians and international folks alike have no doubt heard. Five British nationals died in the whale watching accident just off Tofino on Sunday afternoon and one is unaccounted for. Rescuers pulled 18 survivors from the frigid waters and they appear to be doing OK.

And to no one’s surprise, the little community of Tofino pulled together; water taxis, other whale watching boats and members of the Ahousaht First Nation in particular came together and rescued those in distress from the water.

So What Happened?

That’s the million dollar question. Presently, all we know is something happened so fast the crew did not have time to put out a mayday.

Locals and people out on the water that day said the water was not terribly rough. The captain had over 20 years experience in these waters and took people there every day. But there are a few clues being put out there. Local fisherman claim the area where the accident occurred, Plover Reefs, is ‘like a washing machine’ because of the effects of swirling tides and currents.

Connect the dots and reports from some of the Ahousaht nation rescuers and it looks like the boat was flipped by a massive wave that caught everyone by surprise. Some observers speculate the crew and passengers – all 27 people on board – may have huddled over on one side of the vessel. That probably didn’t help either.

Not the First Whale Watching Accident in Tofino

The sunken boat is the Leviathan II – a 65 foot cruiser boat that had sailed the popular whale watching waters for decades for Jamie’s Whale Station. Yet it’s not the first deadly whale watching accident off Tofino. In March 1998, a smaller boat, Ocean Thunder – also owned by Jamie’s was swamped in violent seas in the same area.

Two of the four people onboard died in that accident.

It’s safe to say we’ll have more answers in the next few days. Kudos to the good people of Tofino, and a reminder that the Pacific is a temperamental creature with a mind of her own in the Pacific Northwest.