Encounter #54 - June 18, 2016
L91 & L122
L91 & L122

Photo by Ken Balcomb

L72 breach
L72 breach

Photo by Ken Balcomb


Photo by Ken Balcomb

L91 & L122
L91 & L122

Photo by Ken Balcomb


Photos taken under Federal Permits



Enc Number:

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End Time:





Begin Lat/Long: End Lat/Long:






Mike 1 & Chimo

Mark & Hannah Malleson

Ken Balcomb

L Pod

Constance Bank

48 19.681N/123 25.674W

48 33.18N/123 120.15W

Encounter Summary: 

For the past two days we have been receiving reports of a fairly large group of whales inbound near Otter Point, Vancouver Island, but in spite of intensive search by the whale-watch fleet nothing was found. The whales simply disappeared after the initial reports. On a hunch, Mark and Hannah Malleson headed west in early morning in “Mike 1” on a search of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and they encountered some L whales very spread out heading in along the shore near Otter Point at 0830. They called Ken as he was driving to Port Townshend on highway 101 to attend an Orcanetwork workshop in Langley, Whidbey Island. Torn between attending an important workshop and joining an encounter with whales that had not been seen yet this year, the matter was decided when the PT/Coupeville ferry was full and there was no place to park for walk-ons. Ken immediately called in his regrets and drove back west on highway 101 to Sequim and John Wayne Marina to go out on “Chimo”.
“Chimo” departed the dock at 1130 and sped around the tip of Dungeness Spit before heading west toward Race Rocks in beautifully calm seas with a gentle westerly swell. The wind to the west was picking up and gradually moving a choppy surface eastward, so it was simply a matter of timing to intercept the whales before conditions deteriorated to the point where ID photography would be challenging. At 1242, about two miles east of Race Rocks a fin briefly appeared in the choppy gray water beneath a darkening sky full of moisture. This is the Pacific Northwest, after all. The encounter nonetheless began.
The first group of whales encountered were of the L47 matriline – grandma L47 with daughter L91 and her 10 month old son, L122. The six year old male, L115, was with the group, and L83 with L110 were several hundred yards off their right flank. L90 and L92 were a bit further off, and some whales (leaders) were reported to already be nearing Constance Bank and travelling quickly at about 9 knots with an incoming tide. The spread of whales was over five miles east-west, and two miles north-south, and the surfacing was very unpredictable and usually asynchronous. This was already challenging without deteriorating weather! Another small group of whales was “trailing” the lead procession by several miles, zig-zagging in close association with one another, in a resting pattern. These “trailers” turned out to be the L54’s plus L84 and L88, encountered for the first time this year!
Interestingly, a group of Transient whales was also reported near the southwest edge of Constance bank travelling offshore as the Residents were coming in! “Chimo” briefly left the Residents to document the “T’s” (see Encounters 53 and 55). They passed within one mile of the L54’s with no apparent attention paid by either group, although at one point the L54’s seemed to be heading in the direction of the T’s as if on a collision course before they turned away.
For the rest of the day until 1537 when “Chimo” ended the encounter, the L whales continued their travels toward the west side of San Juan Island, and the weather continued to threaten. The lead whales, which included L72 and L105, travelled up Haro Strait to Sunset Point in spread out pattern and then turned and headed back down island as the trailing group of L54’s et. al. approached False Bay and spread out before also heading down island toward Salmon Bank. A large rain squall arrived at 1553 as “Chimo” was being secured to the Snug Harbor dock.
The L whales were encountered again by Mark and Hannah the next morning (19 June 2016) heading west off Sheringham Lighthouse in a spread out pattern, following their brief visit to the interior Salish Sea. We hope they are finding enough salmon.