2019 Encounters

Encounter #106 - December 20, 2019
K43, L91

K43, L91

Photo by Joe Zelwietro

K43, L91

K43, L91

Photo by Joe Zelwietro

Photo by Mark Malleson

L55

L55

Photo by Mark Malleson

L109

L109

Photo by Mark Malleson

L90

L90

Photo by Mark Malleson

K43

K43

Photo by Mark Malleson

K38

K38

Photo by Mark Malleson

K35

K35

Photo by Mark Malleson

K37

K37

Photo by Mark Malleson

K33

K33

Photo by Mark Malleson

K33

K33

Photo by Joe Zelwietro

K22

K22

Photo by Mark Malleson

K26

K26

Photo by Joe Zelwietro

K21

K21

Photo by Mark Malleson

K16

K16

Photo by Joe Zelwietro

K12_K37

K12_K37

Photo by Mark Malleson

K12

K12

Photo by Mark Malleson

J56

J56

Photo by Mark Malleson

J38

J38

Photo by Mark Malleson

J31

J31

Photo by Mark Malleson

J46

J46

Photo by Mark Malleson

20160331DAG_SJ1-179_J53 spyhop.jpg
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Enc Date: 20/12/19

Enc Seq: 1

Enc#: 106

Observ Begin: 11:33 AM

Observ End: 02:49 PM

Vessel: Mike 1

Staff: Mark Malleson

Other Observers: Joe Zelwietro, Valerie Messier

Pods: J, K, L

Location Descr: Race Rocks

Start Latitude: 48 19.6

Start Longitude: 123 25.9

End Latitude: 48 19.8

End Longitude: 123 50.7

Enc Summary:

Mark received a report of killer whales in the vicinity of William Head mid-morning. The whales were thought to be Southern Residents, so he and Joe along with their colleague and friend Valerie Messier mobilized Mike 1 and departed Victoria at 1111. They had only made it ten minutes out of the harbour before coming across a large concentration of foraging killer whales just west of Constance Bank. They began the encounter at 1133 at 48 19.6/123 25.9 (~4 nm NE of Race Rocks) and quickly confirmed several members of K pod. The whales were spread to the north and southwest but all seemed more interested in foraging than going anywhere quickly. J31 and calf J56 were foraging alongside K37, and the youngest Southern Resident breached three or four times while mom searched for food.

As the ebb picked up, all of the K pod whales ceased foraging and headed west quickly, aiming at Race Pass. Several of the group passed through the reserve, travelling between Helicopter and North Race Rocks, while the majority took the Pass and at least three individuals passed south of Race Rocks. There was considerable swell in Race Pass, but the whales surfed through it with ease. As the animals slowed upon exiting to the west, the Mike 1 crew opted to break off from them and head offshore to the southwest before looping back to the shoreline. They suspected there may be some unaccounted-for J pod whales in the area, and hoped that the rest of the group that had been in Puget Sound over the past few days would appear. They were south of Beechey Head when Joe picked up a distant bull closer to shore, along with a smaller animal. These animals were travelling slowly west, but taking long dives. The male appeared long enough to be identified as K21, but disappeared quickly on another long dive and with more animals spotted to the west the crew forged on.

Several miles west of K21 and his companion were several more westbound killer whales, and these were even more elusive than the last. After confirming K26 and a small group of Pacific white-sided dolphins joined the fray! The “lags” (from the scientific name for Pacific white-sided dolphins, Lagenorhynchus obliquidens) raced off towards a small group of killer whales less than a mile inshore of them, and the Mike 1 crew watched in anticipation of a meeting. The whales dove though, and the lags opted to play alongside Mike 1 for a few moments before disappearing to the east. Mark and Joe returned their focus to the outbound whales, and shortly L55 was identified. Several others just offshore of her were seen but with 7 to 9 minute dives and short breathing cycles in between it was not possible to confirm those IDs as the rain started to close back in and the crew felt it was time to head back to Victoria.

They ended the encounter at 1449 at 48 19.8/123 50.7 (~2nm SW of Otter Point) and turned for home. They did not re-sight the trailing group along the way; with a strong ebb current it is possible they were pulled offshore into the rain and poor visibility.

Photos taken under Federal Permits

NMFS PERMIT: 21238/ DFO SARA 388