Encounter #23 - Mar 26, 2019
Encounter Number: 23
Enc Start Time: 12:30
Enc End Time: 17:05
Observers: Dave Ellifrit
Pods or ecotype: J pod and L87
Location: Boundary Pass and San Juan Channel
Begin Lat/Long: 48 41.54/123 07.12
End Lat/Long: 48 40.53/123 07.27
Ken called Dave at home in the late morning to relay a report that J pod had been found heading slowly down Boundary Pass. Dave grabbed his gear, headed to the boat, and left Snug Harbor around 1145ish. “Orcinus” got to the general area in Boundary Pass around 1215 but the whales were so spread out that it was 1230 before the first whales were seen and encountered.
The first group encountered was J36, J41, and J51 and they were about halfway between Blunden Island and Johns Pass. The threesome were socializing as they fast traveled east toward White Rock. About a half mile to the south of these three, J19 and J39 were paralleling each other-spread by about 200 yards-as they also fast traveled east. A male appeared way up ahead in the White Rocks area. This turned out to be J26. J27 also appeared another half mile east of J26 and both of them foraged separately in the area between White Rock and Flattop Island.
More whales were seen closer to the Orcas Island shoreline and this turned out to be the J17s, J22s and J40. This group was loosely stretched out as they turned southwest and then filed around the north and west shorelines of Jones Island. J17 herself was present with J53 beside her with the others near Jones Island. Most of the group began milling as they headed slowly southeast on the south side of Jones while J17 began traveling down San Juan Channel by herself a couple of hundred yards ahead of the others. J53 stayed to play with the group. J17 did not have bad breath when the research boat was near her on this day but that may have been a matter of wind direction. L87 and the J37s appeared as they also rounded Jones Island about a quarter mile behind the others and soon joined the milling whales.
A single whale was seen a few hundred yards to the northwest of the Jones Island group and another group had formed just a little north of O’Neil Island. The single whale turned out to be J45 and he traveled slowly southeast mid-channel by himself until angling toward the whales near Jones Island. By 1445, the J17s, J22s, J14s, and L87 group were only about half a mile southeast of Jones Island before they had turned around and began heading slowly back to the northwest. “Orcinus” headed over to the group north of O’Neal Island and found it to include the J16s, J19s, and J39. These whales were grouped up tight and heading slowly north. Due to an annoying cloud that made things dark (“old man yells at cloud”) plus the whales weren’t arching much, just a few proof of presence shots were taken of this group at the time before moving back to the other group.
By 1520, the J14s, J17s, J22s, and L87 group had spread out into singles and small groups all heading slowly northwest. J22, J35, J37, and J40 were in a group together that rolled around a little as they moved in the direction of Spieden Island. J17 and J53 were traveling tightly together a couple of hundred yards behind the foursome. L87 was by himself a couple hundred yards to the north of J17 and J53. The other whales who had been part of the larger group were strung out and socializing several hundred yards behind J17 and J53.
The J16s and J19s group had passed Green Point by 1600 and were now traveling west on the north side of Spieden Island. This group had lost J39 but gained J27 and J31. Right before the Cactus Islands, these whales turned north and traveled slowly in a tight group back into Boundary Pass. The rest of J pod and L87 were about three quarters of a mile to the southeast of the J16s, J19s, and J11s and were still spread out in singles and small groups. There was a lot socializing going on in the trailing groups. J39 was actively going after J40 with L87 lingering nearby. J35 breached twice in a row. J38 was playing with some of the younger whales while bringing up the rear. The encounter ended at 1705 about a mile north of the east end of Johns Island with all the whales still heading slowly north in Boundary Pass.
Photos taken under Federal Permits
NMFS PERMIT: 21238/ DFO SARA 388