Encounter #2 - Jan 11, 2019
Photos taken under Be Whale Wise Guidelines
Encounter Number: 02
Enc Start Time: 09:30
Enc End Time: 14:30
Vessel: Morning Star
Observers: Dave Ellifrit, Melisa Pinnow, Jane Cogan, Tom Cogan
Pods or ecotype: J, K, and L pod
Location: Strait of Juan de Fuca
Begin Lat/Long: 48 09.45/-122 44.67
End Lat/Long: 48 19.20/-123 21.40
Dave, Melisa, Tom, and Jane met at Snug Harbor and left the dock at 0745 aboard “Morning Star”. The goal was to find L pod. Both K and L pod were seen in Puget Sound the previous day and L pod was of particular interest because there appeared to be a new calf. “Morning Star” headed straight to Admiralty Inlet. Not long after, J pod was seen heading toward Discovery Island/Constance Bank area from the west side of San Juan Island.
“Morning Star” spotted blows at the northern end of Admiralty Inlet at 0930, about a mile northeast of Point Wilson. It was all of K pod sleepily traveling northwest in a tight group. Everyone was accounted for, including K25. K25 remains thin, but it appears that his condition has not worsened.
It wasn’t long until more blows were seen a few hundred yards behind K pod. It was all of L pod grouped up and also slowly heading northwest. “Morning Star” moved from K pod to L pod to find the new calf. All of L pod was accounted for and L77’s new calf, L124, was confirmed at 0950. The calf appeared to be about 3 weeks old and was bouncing around between L25, L41, L77 L85, and L119. A gender was not revealed during the encounter but there will hopefully be more opportunities in the future.
Multiple social groups formed in L pod and many of the males, both young and old, were especially playful. As L pod exited Admiralty Inlet, even more whales became surface active with tail slaps, pec slaps, cartwheels, breaches, and spy hops. Up ahead, K pod had already exited the inlet and was still heading northwest.
By 1030, L pod was 1/3 mile due south of the SA buoy, still heading northwest but had increased their speed to 4-5 knots. K pod remained in a tight group to the west of L pod. Once southeast of Hein Bank, L pod began to disperse into smaller groups and picked their speed up to 6-7 knots. As the Ls were spreading out to the east, some the whales, especially the L4s and L47s, became surface active again. K pod also became surface active off to the west. It was clear that K and L pod could hear J pod and were eager to join them. “Morning Star” stayed with some of the L12s and L54s, but the L54s were not in such a hurry and fell behind.
The new calf kept up well with L25, L41, L77, and L119 as they sped northwest. “Morning Star” then decided to see where K pod went off to and re-acquired almost all of K pod in a tight group at 1310, southeast of Constance Bank. Then, news came in from whale watching boats that J pod was up ahead. K pod became surface active again as they closed the gap between them and J pod. Up ahead, some of Ls, including the L12s, had already reached J pod and were beginning to socialize. K pod arrived on scene soon after and joined the social groups that were forming.
It appeared the all of J pod was around and J17 was seen a few times, though a health shot was not acquired. If all of J pod was indeed there, than all 75 of the endangered southern resident orcas were in the same area together. “Morning Star” moved around the spread out social groups and found some trailing whales that were a little late to the party. Some of the L4s, the L72s, L47s, and the L54s slowly headed toward J, K, and the rest of L pod. The encounter was ended at 1430 near Constance Bank as the last two trailers, L88 and L117, continued toward the gathering.