• Encounter #71 - July 14, 2016 •
Photo by Melisa Pinnow
Photo by Ken Balcomb
Photo by Dave Ellifrit
Photo by Melisa Pinnow
Photos taken under Federal Permits
NMFS PERMIT: 15569/ DFO SARA 288
Begin Lat/Long: End Lat/Long:
Orcinus and Shachi
Dave Ellifrit, Melisa Pinnow, Candice Smith in Orcinus, Ken Balcomb in Shachi
J and L pods
48 27.48/123 03.17
48 29.00/123 07.00
Whales were found after 8am spread out from Salmon Bank to False Bay. L pod whales, including the L12's who we have not seen yet this year, had been seen coming in the Strait of Juan de Fuca the previous evening so calls were made and Dave and Melisa hurried over to the Center. Dave, Melisa, and Candice then headed down to Snug Harbor and left aboard "Orcinus" around 0920ish. Although there was not much wind yet, there was a big tidal lump from the south end of Andrews Bay to Hannah Heights with steep waves that were close together that slowed us down on our way to the whales. "Orcinus" slogged through the slop and finally emerged into calmer water off Hannah Heights. We briefly saw one minke whale just a little south of there.
Whale watch boats could be seen north of Eagle Point so we headed that direction. We saw our first group of whales at 1002 heading north inshore of us between Eagle Point and False Bay. This group included the L55's along with L105 and J31 and they got by us with just a few proof of presence photos taken. We kept moving south in hopes of finding members of the L12's (the L11's, L22's, L85, and L25-L87 is also a L12 but he was up north with the rest of J pod). We saw a male and a female inshore at Eagle Point and this turned out to be L22 and L89. These two milled briefly at the point before heading slowly south. Another boat reported that they had J27 a ways offshore of us. The J11's had not been with the rest of J pod when they had been inside the past week so it was interesting that they came in with the L's. We decided to head offshore and it was soon clear that the whales were very spread out out there. We saw L86 and L106 spread out from one another foraging. J31 also showed up again and J27 was several hundred yards away from her foraging by himself. Around 1100, we headed back inshore a little to look at a mom and calf. This was L103 and L123 and they headed quickly north. L118 was also flying around peripheral to L103 and L123. We weren't seeing many whales inshore of us so we headed back offshore a couple of miles to the southwest of Eagle Point. Jeff on Serengeti reported that he had L41 and others several miles to the south of us so we passed up J27 and J31 still spread out foraging to head down that way. About a mile south of J27, we saw a couple of whales we thought might of been L77 and L119 but we headed for a threesome several hundred yards further south. This was L94, L113, and L121. They milled around and were somewhat evasive so we left soon left them and continued south. We went another couple of miles further south before we came across the boats watching L41 at 1200 just a little north of Hein Bank. L41 was foraging by himself although L25 was several hundred yards away also foraging. As these two were busy and being unpredictable, we soon left them and headed east to find another bull we had seen and thought might be L85. L85 turned up also foraging by himself between Hein Bank and Salmon Bank. We stayed with him for about twelve minutes before deciding to head back inshore toward Eagle Point.
Ken had come out later in the morning in "Shachi" and had also worked his way south photographing various groups including several whales (like L77 and L119) that "Orcinus" had not made it to. The rest of J pod and L87 had also been found heading southwest in Boundary Pass in the morning. These whales came around Turn Point and were near Kellett Bluff by early afternoon. While "Orcinus" headed back toward Eagle Pt., Ken headed north to find the L's that had gone north as well as catching the southbound whales. Ken photographed members of the L26's, L47's, L55's, and L72's near Bellevue Pt. heading north to meet the J's and L87 who were now heading south in Andrews Bay. The J's and L's met and all headed south down SJI in groups.
Meanwhile, "Orcinus" had found L22 and L89 again at 1310 between False Bay and Eagle Pt. heading slowly south. These two milled and foraged off the rocks of Eagle Pt. among the sport fishing boats and we left them there still foraging fifteen minutes later. The L94's were about a half mile north of Eagle Point. L94 and L121 were tight together but L113 was several hundred yards away. They were heading north when we first saw them but turned back south again after twenty minutes. L94 and L121 stopped and milled some and may have been chasing fish but we could not confirm they caught anything. L113 briefly rejoined the other two after a near miss by a large yacht before she moved off again. These three all headed back south toward Eagle Pt. and we headed back offshore once again. We passed J31 as she headed inshore toward Kanaka Bay. We had a brief pass by J27 and we thought we saw J39 but he disappeared before we could get a photo of him.
We decided to head for the south bound whales and caught the leaders at Hannah Heights at about 1520. The J19's and L106 passed us going quickly south closely followed by L92. L92 and J19 were briefly tactile. We then saw J2 about a hundred yards inshore of L90 who was paralleling her. L90 was going on long irregular dives and we did not get a good look at her. L89 headed north past False Bay and briefly engaged a group that included J35, L91 and L122 before he moved off to the north. Other loose groups filed by quickly both inshore and offshore of us off Hannah Heights. Since the wind was picking up and the sea conditions were deteriorating, we ended the encounter there at 1600 as all the whales headed south spread out in groups.