Encounter #121 - Nov 23, 2016

Photo by Ken Balcomb

T60E &T60D
T60E &T60D

Photo by Ken Balcomb

T2B & T60 C
T2B & T60 C

Photo by Ken Balcomb


Photo by Ken Balcomb


Photos taken under Federal Permits



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Ken Balcomb

T60s and T2B

Haro Strait

48 33 43N/123 17 57W

48 32 54N/123 15 16W

Encounter Summary:

The marine forecast for the afternoon was for gale force winds in the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca and a high wind advisory for winds in excess of 45 knots in the San Juan Islands, and the morning was dark with clouds flowing over the Olympic mountains from the south. Snow level was 3000 feet at Hurricane Ridge above Port Angeles, but the water between Ediz Hook and Victoria was a steely gray flat calm before the coming storm. I was awakened at 0630 by the calls of Transient whales on the Lime Kiln hydrophone coming in over the internet and surmised that the vocalizing whales were distant from there by many miles, perhaps celebrating a predation event somewhere near Constance Bank where they have been episodically patrolling for more than a week (see Encounters 119 and 120). I conducted a ‘big eye’ binocular search from my outpost near the Port Angeles dump, which happens to have the best view I have yet found of the central Strait of Juan de Fuca, but saw nothing except a couple of humpback whales and several flocks of seabirds south of Constance Bank. At 1030, Dale Mitchell, spotted a few ‘black and whites’ heading east off Seabird, Discovery Island into Haro Strait.
At least four whale-watch boats searched Haro Strait and the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca from mid-day to late afternoon with no success, until shortly after 1500 when Dale spotted ‘black and whites’ again in Sidney Channel on the west side of D’Arcy Island. The calm water of the morning and early afternoon had suckered me into departing Port Angeles in “Chimo” at 1348 to join the search, and I was in Haro Strait about five miles away in slightly bumpy water when the whales were found, so I responded in spite of a rain squall which was threatening to overtake us all. The whales had apparently just conducted another predation event before I arrived and they were submerged for seven minutes before they surfaced several hundred yards in front of me heading southeast toward Kelp Reef in Haro Strait – back from where I had come. The wind and chop had increased significantly and rain commenced to douse me and my camera, which was becoming almost useless as the sky darkened. Sometimes these winter encounters are like this! At least it was not freezing. Not willing to plow back into building seas that I had just come through, I left the whales in the rain squall and circumnavigated D’Arcy Island to the north and east in hopes of placing myself somewhere in their path if they were indeed heading to Kelp Reef. Fortunately they were, and the rain cleared just enough for me to take a few proof of presence photos before calling it quits and heading on to Snug Harbor. Upon arrival I found the car battery dead so I had to hitch a ride home with a friend. Thus ended another exciting day of whale research documenting “higgledy-piggledy whale statements” for “veritable gospel cetology”. Though, “these extracts are solely valuable or entertaining, as affording a glancing bird’s eye view of what has been promiscuously said, thought, fancied, and sung of leviathan, by many nations and generations, including our own.” Make of all of this what you will, it will be more important in one hundred years than it is now.