Encounter #47 - Sept 12, 2020
Photos taken under Federal Permits
NMFS PERMIT: 21238/ DFO SARA 388
Observ Begin: 09:48 AM
Observ End: 12:45 AM
Vessel: Mike 1
Staff: Mark Malleson, Hanna Malleson
Other Observers: Bryttni Nameth
Location Descr: Swiftsure Bank
Start Latitude: 48 30.9
Start Longitude: 124 51.7
End Latitude: 48 40.4
End Longitude: 124 53.6
Mike 1, with crew of Hanna and Mark along with their friend and colleague Brytnni Nameth left the Pacific Gateway Marina out of Port Renfrew at 0827.
They proceeded west towards Swiftsure Bank with calm seas and limited visibility.
At 0948, they came across a sea otter ~3nm south of Carmanah Creek (48 32.8 124 44.2) before continuing on to where Hanna and Mark had come across a large aggregation of humpbacks, sea lions, seabirds, and the T049A's the day before.
As they approached the area, the birdlife increased as well as large numbers of frolicking Steller sea lions as well as California sea lions.
They then spotted a large group of ~20 humpbacks tight together, preparing for an almost unison dive when Hanna shouted out "killer whales!" for the second day in a row. So much for collecting humpback tail flukes! Encounter 47 had begun. It seemed as though the Bigg's were harassing a small California sea lion when Hanna first spotted them, but they chose to move on. Mark immediately recognized the unmistakable T109B4 as he had an encounter with a group of Bigg's, which included this group on his way to Port Renfrew on September 9th.
Mike 1 tracked the T109B's for a lengthy time with hopes to see some predation as there was plenty of prey in the area. With less than quarter-mile visibility and long dives, it was a tall order to keep track of them. The whales seemed to be tracking between 300 and 330 degrees on the compass and averaging less than 4 knots, so Mike 1 trolled along at 4 knots and would stop and shut down every 6 minutes and listen and look. Most of the time, the whales were within their view, but a couple of times after waiting what seemed like forever, they would hear them and then troll towards them until they would reappear. This was getting old after close to 2 hours of tracking them with no signs of predation, so they were about to end the encounter at 1144 4.4 nm SSW of the mouth of the Nitinat (48 37.5 124 54.4) when Mark shouted out, "Things are about to get interesting!" as he watched T109B at the edge of the fog leaping out of the water in full chase after a harbour porpoise. Once she had tired out the porpoise, she took a break and let her three offspring have a go at it, likely allowing the two-year-old T109B5 practice hunting. Fifteen minutes after the start of the chase, T109B finished it off and held it down to drown. The group prey shared for the next 10 minutes before they continued their trackline for the Nitinat River bar. Mike 1 ended the encounter at 1245 as the T109B's worked their way northwest along the Vancouver Island shoreline inside the kelp beds near Tsusiat Falls (48 28.9 124 53.6).