T99B

T99B

Photo by Ken Balcomb

T99B off Kellett Bluff

T99B off Kellett Bluff

Photo by Ken Balcomb

T99

T99

Photo by Ken Balcomb

T99D

T99D

Photo by Ken Balcomb

T99

T99

Photo by Ken Balcomb

T99C

T99C

Photo by Ken Balcomb

Encounter #64 - Aug 21, 2017

Date: 21-Aug-17

Sequence: 1

Encounter Number: 64

Enc Start Time: 12:47

Enc End Time: 13:11

Vessel: Shachi

Observers: Ken Balcomb, Gail Richard

Pods or ecotype: Bigg's Transient killer Whales

Location: Haro Strait

Begin Lat/Long: 48.60177N/123.21637W

End Lat/Long: 48.56354N/123.22002W

 

Encounter Summary:

Shortly after the solar eclipse this morning there were reports of Bigg’s Transient killer whales at several locations within the Salish Sea, providing convenient opportunity for whale watching almost anywhere in the region. Around noon one of the reports was of a small group of these “black and whites” heading south in Haro Strait near Battleship Island, a mere four miles from our homeport of Snug Harbor in Mitchell Bay, San Juan Island. We launched at 1228 and headed into mid strait off Kellett Bluff, Henry Island and encountered the whales at 1247. Almost immediately it was apparent that one of the whales had a very distinctive notched appearance to the dorsal fin, which permitted its identification as T99B; and, before long its mom and siblings were also identifiable in the photos we took. We only stayed with them for four surfacings as they dove for three to four minutes in a fairly regular southbound pattern, mostly travelling but occasionally spread out as if foraging. The radio was crackling with news of another group of Bigg’s Transient killer whales heading north about three miles southwest of the T99s over by Kelp Reef, so we headed for the latter group to document a calf that was reported among them (Encounter 64). It was interesting that these two groups of whales passed each other going in opposite directions only about a mile apart at CPA (closest point of approach), like ships passing in the night. They were obviously too far apart to see each other underwater, and they gave no clue that they heard each other (Transients are usually swimming silently when foraging – perhaps so seals cannot hear them). The T99s were seen the following day (22 August) heading west near Race Rocks in company with the T36Bs, in witness to the interesting social network of the Transient ecotype whales, different from that of the Resident ecotype. They mix and match, but never with the Residents whose dining habits are much different.

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Photos taken under Federal Permits
NMFS PERMIT: 15569-01/ DFO SARA 388

2017 Encounters