Encounter #45 - Sept 11, 2020
Photos taken under Federal Permits
NMFS PERMIT: 21238/ DFO SARA 388
Enc Date: 11/09/20
ObservBegin: 10:18 AM
ObservEnd: 12:11 AM
Vessel: Mike 1
Staff: Mark Malleson, Hanna Malleson
LocationDescr: Swiftsure Bank
Start Latitude: 48 30.9
Start Longitude: 124 49.0
End Latitude: 48 32.5
End Longitude: 124 49.8
Mark and Hana departed the Gateway Marina in Port Renfrew at 0733.
This morning was smoky and foggy unlike the perfect conditions the day before.
They made their way out of the Port of San Juan and decided to head east towards Sombrio in case the east bound southern residents from the night before were on their way back west. The conditions were not ideal with moderate north west winds and limited visibility. Mark decided that it would be worth running with the seas and listening to the hydrophone off Sombrio in case they could hear SRKW vocals. It would be easy enough to quarter their way in to the lee of the Vancouver Island shoreline and make their way west to Swiftsure Bank afterwards. The wind was forecasted to abate late morning and less wind to the west. After a quick listen on the hydrophone in less than a mile visibility they worked their way west up the VI shoreline. The conditions improved dramatically as they continued as they tacked back and forth on a line for Swiftsure Bank stopping every few miles to listen to the hydrophone. Mark then received a report that members of all 3 pods were spotted east bound west of Race Rocks which confirmed his suspicion of them continuing east during the night.
Upon reaching the east edge of Swiftsure Bank Mike 1 came across a large aggregation of humpbacks so they decided to collect some tail fluke ID shots. The first whale to give up its anonymity was a 10 year old animal that Mark documented a calf in 2010 to BCY0160 "Heather".
Heather is one of the pioneers of the returning humpback whales to the Salish Sea first showing up in 2003 off the waters of Victoria. Mark has documented her introducing 4 calves to these feeding grounds in the last 14 years.
At 1018 before Mark and Hanna could continue working through the aggregation of humpbacks, Hanna shouted out "killer whales!". In the less than 1/4 nm visibility she spotted 3 small killer whales approaching the starboard quarter of Mike 1 (48 30.9/124 49.0). Mark fired off a couple of poor angle shots while they came past the boat and disappeared. He was fairly confident that they were Bigg's but couldn't confirm which ones with the off angle shots. Without any reference on which way they were pointed Mike 1 slowly trolled in the direction that they both agreed on. After ~15 minutes of tracking south west Mark decided to work their way back towards the original sighting location. When they were almost upon the coordinates Mark spotted a pair of bulls at the edge of their visibility. It looked as though they were pointed towards them so they shut down and waited. What seemed like an eternity, a bull popped up abeam of them working its way back to the original sighting location. They eventually got confirmation of T049A1 but no sign of the other bull. In the reduced visibility it was hard to keep their bearings and every time they thought they had found the other bull it turned out to be T049A1. They decided to end the encounter and make their way towards the Nitinat River bar to get out of the fog. As they were taxiing away T049A3 and T049A4 appeared. Once they got decent pictures for proof of presence the Mike 1 crew ended the encounter at 1211 (48 32.5/124 49.8), less than 2 nm to the north after 2 hours.