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Encounter #98 - Sept 9, 2016

Photos taken under Federal Permits



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Ken Balcomb


Strait of Juan de Fuca

Encounter Summary:

We have been hearing a lot lately about a hundred or more humpback whales aggregating in the central Strait of Juan de Fuca, sometimes on the US side near Pillar Point, and sometimes on the Canadian side near Sheringham Point. So we decided to get an early start and venture west in the forecast calm seas. The only problem was that “Chimo” became completely surrounded in a rapidly developing fogbank on the Canadian side of Haro Strait and had to pick its way into Oak Bay Marina without radar. Tom and Jane Cogan and Melissa Pinnow came across Haro Strait a short while later on board “Morning Star” with radar and rendezvoused at the marina with “Chimo” to guide Ken out into the central Strait of Juan de Fuca south of Race Rocks where there was some clearing. From there we paralleled west a few miles apart, before encountering more fog on the Canadian side. Ken then went over to the US side in the clear and got as far west as Pillar Point where there were a few drifting fog patches but no hordes of humpbacks. Just about the time that Ken was turning back toward Port Angeles the radio crackled with a report of “black and whites” in mid strait about four miles distant at the edge of a thick fog bank right on the border. The fog was drifting around the whales creating a surreal image that made identification difficult. Nonetheless, enough showed of an adult male to allow T123A to be identified, and there were two smaller whales deeper in the fogbank. Ken took an ID shot of the male and then departed to the relative clearing of the US side to look for whales along the Olympic coastline. There were no more whales found, but there were several small groups of harbor porpoises encountered about ¼ mile offshore as “Chimo” headed to Port Angeles for the night. A fairly large group of twenty-plus humpback whales was found by “Morning Star” just west of Race Rocks as the fog cleared.


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