Ts in Active Pass
Ts in Active Pass

Photo by Dave Ellifrit

Ts in Active Pass
Ts in Active Pass

Photo by Dave Ellifrit

Chimo and Chainsaw
Chimo and Chainsaw

Photo by Dave Ellifrit

Ts in Active Pass
Ts in Active Pass

Photo by Dave Ellifrit

1/19

Encounter Summary: 

In the mid-afternoon of this overcast gray day the VHF radio suddenly crackled with some excited broadcast about transient killer whales near Moresby Island, within range of response in our research vessel “Orca”. Transient killer whales in relatively large groups had been reported for the past two days in Georgia Strait off Nanaimo, but they were just far enough away from San Juan Island for us to defer response until today. Dave Ellifrit and Barbara Bender embarked on “Orca” at 1530, while Ken struggled with a computer trying to submit an electronic submission of an abstract to the Biennial Marine Mammal Conference in San Francisco this December.  About an hour after “Orca” departed, Ken gave up on his computer browser and embarked on “Chimo” to speed  toward Active Pass where the group of T’s was then located, including T63 aka “Chainsaw” with others. Orca had arrived on scene first at 1555 near Enterprise Reef (48 50.26’N by 123 21.01’W), and “Chimo” arrived on scene in middle of the pass at 1650 just as two BC Ferries were entering the pass from opposite directions and numerous pleasure craft were scurrying about, mostly oblivious of the whales.  Dave reported that the “Chainsaw” group had moved to the southwest entrance to Active Pass where T87 had been lingering until they caught up with him, and they travelled as one group through the pass. Many vessels drove right over them as the whales were underwater.
Upon “Chimo”s arrival the Transient group included T63, T65, T65B, T65B1, T87, T90, T90B, and T90C moving in a northeasterly direction in a loose group with the two adult males in trail. They passed by a very lucky harbor seal that surfaced a few hundred meters behind the whales, as they zig-zagged from mid-pass to the north shoreline and back. The tide was ebbing vigorously at the time, causing strong eddies of current that affected any straight line travel by boat or by whale. As a group, the whales exited the east entrance of the pass at 1705, whereupon T87 meandered farther to the east while the others spread out a bit and headed northwest up the offshore edge of Galiano Island. During one of the nearshore meanders before they exited, the whales passed very close to the shoreline where a half dozen people admired them at close range. Apparently someone did not admire our vessels in the vicinity of the whales, because shortly later the police boat showed up with notice of a complaint that we were too close, and they requested we stay 100 meters from the whales. The police were unfamiliar with any permit exemption for research, and were quite polite but firm. We had pretty much finished the encounter by then (1734) so we packed up and headed back to Snug Harbor. “Chimo” arrived back at 1830 and “Orca” arrived back about ten minutes later.
The abstract for a presentation on the Forty Year Orca Survey was finally submitted to the Marine Mammal Conference before the 2200 deadline this night! Hopefully, we will present a summary of our findings on demography, distribution, and ecotypes of Pacific Northwest killer whales for our peers in San Francisco 13-18 December. Be there or be square!

15-May-15

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32

15:55

17:31

Orca and Chimo

Dave Ellifrit,

Barbara Bender

Ken Balcomb

Transient

T63,T65,T65B,T65B1,T87,T90,

T90B,T90C

Active Pass

48.50/123.21

48.53/123.13

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Encounter #32 - May 15, 2015

Photos taken under Federal Permits

NMFS PERMIT: 15569/ DFO SARA 272