Encounter #44 - Sept 10, 2020
Photos taken under Federal Permits
NMFS PERMIT: 21238/ DFO SARA 388
Observ Begin: 08:39 AM
Observ End: 05:53 PM
Vessel: Mike 1
Staff: Mark Malleson, Hanna Malleson
Pods: J, K, L
Location Descr: Port Renfrew
Start Latitude: 48 28.8
Start Longitude: 124 38.4
End Latitude: 48 34.2
End Longitude: 124 41.3
Hanna and Mark left the Pacific Gateway marina on Mike 1 out of Port Renfrew at 0730. They headed east towards Sombrio Point and stopped for a binocular scan 2.5 miles southwest of the point before turning back west towards Swiftsure Bank. When they were ~5 miles south of the entrance to Port of San Juan, Hanna, who was scanning from outside the cabin, motioned to Mark that she had spotted a breach off to the southwest towards an outbound container ship. She figured it was likely a humpback whale, but Mark felt it was a good idea to confirm. When they were within a mile of the ship, it was obvious that there was a large group of killer whales westbound in the outbound shipping lane.
They confirmed that they had J pod in its entirety grouped up moving slowly west. Mark took advantage of the calm seas and started scanning with the binoculars while they waited for J's to resurface to see if more members of the Clan were nearby. Sure enough! He spotted a huge number of small blows a couple of miles to the west. After a couple more sequences with J's, Mike 1 proceeded to the west to confirm the others. It turned out to be two large groups of a mix of K's and L's in each, and both groups were heading east towards the J's.
The lead group of K's and L's met up with J's, and after a short greeting with visible signs of excitement, the Clan split up into three big mixed groups as the trailing eastbound group arrived.
They continued west towards Swiftsure Bank, and at 1050 when they got within 4 miles of the east edge of the bank, the Clan split up and foraged (48 32.6/124 48.1). At 1115 they came into a huge number of humpbacks with many Steller and some California sea lions and numerous seabirds (48 31.4/124 50.0).
Mark and Hanna decided to leave the whales to forage and headed back to the dock with intentions to come back out in the afternoon to photograph them in a better light. They temporarily ended the encounter at 1208 (48 30.9/124 49.8).
Mike 1 departed the dock at 1455 after stretching their legs and a lunch break.
They re-sighted the whales in almost the exact location they had left them earlier (48 31.0/123 48.4) and resumed the encounter at 1527 with J pod who were the furthest south and were generally pointed northeast. The rest of the Clan was spread to the north towards Carmanah Point.
Mike 1 slowly worked their way north through the Clan. At 1644 Mark and Hanna observed K26 actively chasing a salmon and successfully catch it (48 33.9/124 45.4). It seemed as though the majority of the bulls were closer to shore independently foraging.
Mike 1 ended the encounter at 1753 with the most inshore and lead group of L's, which included the L054's, L12's as well as the L4's. They were very animated as they proceeded in a tight group to the east less than a mile from shore between Carmanah and Walbran Creek (48 34.2/124 41.3).