Encounter #102 - Sept 21 , 2016

Photo by Ken Balcomb

Photo by Ken Balcomb

Collect the sample
Collect the sample

Photo by Ken Balcomb


Photo by Ken Balcomb


Photos taken under Federal Permits



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Ken Balcomb

J, K, L Pod members

Haro Strait and eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca

48 29 48N/123 09 28W

48 21 35N/123 08 06W

Encounter Summary:

Ken was delivering “Chimo” to its new base of operations in Port Angeles when he encountered whales at the confluence of Haro Strait and the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca at 1139. The lead whales were already spreading out and heading up Haro Strait, and as usual J2 “Granny” and her escort L87 were in the lead. Some Ks were in the mix also as the small groups and individuals spread out across Haro Strait from Bellevue Point to the Canada border and headed briskly in a northerly direction. Occasional breaches and tail slaps and the general spread suggested that a ‘run’ of Chinook salmon was being encouraged to keep moving toward their spawning river (presumably the Fraser), and some of the fish were being eaten along the way. Farther behind, in the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca, larger groups of whales had not yet spread out and they were still in a social mood mostly comprised of matrilines with occasional members of the lead J and K whales mixed in. Clearly some of the whales had eaten earlier in the day or night as evidenced by plumes of fecal material trailing behind them as they surfaced. The UW pooparazzi was not out today, but the NWFSC research team was following some of the groups scooping up samples that would be analyzed later to ascertain the species and river origin of the prey items and the identity of the individual whale that ate and processed them. With the development of molecular genetic techniques this rather inelegant methodology is yielding some elegant results. The UW scat sampling team, for example, is even extracting traces of hormones and chemicals from the samples to determine the physiological condition of the whales, and some of the stuff that we humans flush down the toilet that gets ingested by the whales.
At 1250 the encounter was ended and “Chimo” sped on to its new boathouse in Port Angeles marina to be stationed there for winter encounters in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. This was another great day in paradise at the beginning of autumn. Soon it will be winter and the patterns will change, as will our efforts. The annual SRKW demographic census is supported by the US government only in summer months, and the winter studies are supported by CWR members and contributors like you.