Playful J50
Playful J50

Photo by Heather MacIntyre

J52 bubbles
J52 bubbles

Photo by Ken Balcomb

Where whales
Where whales

Photo by Ken Balcomb

Playful J50
Playful J50

Photo by Heather MacIntyre


Encounter Summary: 

Several KW's were reported off Lime Kiln Park, San Juan Island, travelling north before noon and they were off Kellett Bluff, Henry Island by noon-thirty when Ken and Heather launched from Snug Harbor in Chimo. They were really not going anywhere fast, and they were variously spread out and gathering in twoseys/threeseys throughout the encounter. The first 'group' encountered was J16, J50 and J42 engaged in close tactile behavior a few hundred yards offshore of a cove on Henry Island north of Kellett Bluff. J16 moved further north and breached rather spectacularly while J42 and J50 continued their tactile behavior before also moving north. J26 was way back off Kellett Bluff at this time, but he and J36 and J52 quickly caught up and the group spread out again southwest of Battleship Island. For about one and a half hours they dispersed and gathered while going back and forth across the shipping lanes of Haro Strait, presumably foraging. It was nail-biting time as the mothers and calves swam almost in the path of enormous "deep seas", the freighters of international commerce, each seemingly oblivious of the other. I am sure that the whales knew exactly where we and the large ships were virtually all of the time, but I cannot cease to wonder how they deal with 195+ decibels of low frequency sound from the ships in their immediate presence. The propulsion sounds of big surface ships radiate mostly from bow and stern aspect, while machinery sounds radiate in beam aspect. It is a cacophony of sound that blanks all others nearby. Most of the smaller vessel traffic is typically operating at idle speed with low radiated noise levels from bow and stern aspect in their immediate presence. The whales sure know when we changed RPM's or shifted in and out of gear. They are very tuned into any changes, and rather nonchalant about constant vessel behaviors and noises however intense they seem to us.J42 did make a very close pass-by inspection of us at one point when we were stopped at idle, and then she 'fluked' as if waving to us. We left the whales in the shipping lanes as a light rain began to fall and the air temperature plummeted.

Notes-Comments:This encounter is notable for the documentation of the two calves , J50 and J52, that were not in Puget Sound on 2 November, Encounter 94. They are alive and appear well fed.







Ken Balcomb 
Heather MacIntyre


J16, J26, J36, J42, J50, J52

Kellett Bluff





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Encounter #96 - Nov 6, 2015

Photos taken under Federal Permits