Photo by Jeanne Hyde
Photo by Dave Ellifrit
Photo by Jeanne Hyde
Jeanne Hyde called Dave around 0950 with a report that a friend of her's saw a couple of whales heading west in Spieden Channel. Over an hour later, people began hearing transient calls on the hydrophones before Jeanne spotted whales from shore near Beaumont Shoal. Mark Malleson arrived on scene shortly afterword and confirmed it was the four T18's as the whales headed north on the Kelp Reef line. Jeanne Hyde and Katie Jones joined Dave aboard Chimo and we left Snug Harbor at 1230.
Chimo arrived on scene at 1246 about halfway between Beaumont Shoal and Kelp Reef. T19, T19B, and T19C were fairly tight while T18 was a quarter mile or more to the east, paralleling their course. After we got on the whales, Mark Malleson left to go looking for more whales since no one believed the early morning sighting in Spieden Channel were the T18's. By about 1315, the T18's spread out just north of Kelp Reef and milled in the area for the next twenty minutes or so before continuing north. Mark reported that he had found the T60's and T2B near the south end of James Island and that they were on a kill. The T18's headed north past the south tip of Sydney Island and then Halibut Island before turning west and heading past Mandarte Island where T18 caught up to them. Just west of Mandarte Island, the whales began milling again and appeared to make a kill. We saw gulls diving to pick up pieces and smelled blubber oil but could not confirm exactly what it was. Around 1515, the T18's began traveling north past the west side of Gooch Island.
Earlier, Mark had passed off the T60's and T2B to Tom and Jane Cogan aboard Morning Star and they followed them up Sydney Channel, past Sydney, and toward the south end of Moresby Island. We could see Morning Star in the distance through the small islands and they reported that the T60's and T2B were making a kill at the south end of Moresby Island. The T18's began to speed up and headed right for the other whales, apparently hearing them making calls during the kill.
We moved ahead to the milling and feeding T60's and T2B at about 1535. The T18's showed up shortly afterwards, approaching slow and in a tight formation. The T18's dove while the T60's and T2B continued to mill. After several minutes T19C appeared, horsing around with the young T60's. The whales broke up into three groups and began socializing. T19B and two females (probably T18 and T19) drifted off and hung out lazily near the surface several hundred yards away. T60, T60C, and a couple others moved off in another group while T19C, T60D, and T60E continued roughhousing with one another. Some parts of the kill were seen and gulls kept swooping in to pick up pieces so the whales must have been having fun with the leftovers. T19C and the young T60's got really excited so there was a lot of splashing and both T19C and T60D breached with erections. While those three were fooling around, a bald eagle swooped down and stole a very large piece of red meat and flew off with it.
The groups started to get closer together and all the whales began heading north again in Prevost Passage along the west side of Moresby Island. By 1615, the whales formed one loose group who were still in a social mood. T19B breached three times and, a while later, T19C do two belly flops and there was some splashing and rolling from other whales too. We left the whales at 1723 just north of Canoe Rock heading northerly still mixed up in a loose group.
Dave Ellifrit, Jeanne Hyde, Katie Jones
T18's, T60's, T2B
lower Gulf Islands
Orca ID's :
• Encounter #8 - March 5, 2015 •
Photos taken under Federal Permits
NMFS PERMIT: 15569/ DFO SARA 272