Encounter #68 - Dec 9, 2020
Photos taken under Federal Permits
NMFS PERMIT: 21238/ DFO SARA 388
ObservBegin: 02:53 PM
ObservEnd: 03:29 PM
Vessel: Mike 1
Staff: Mark Malleson
Other Observers: Joe Zelwietro, Val Messier
LocationDescr: Race Rocks
Start Latitude: 48 18.3
Start Longitude: 123 33.8
End Latitude: 48 17.4
End Longitude: 123 30.9
Mark received a message from Val Messier at 1347 that she had seen a Facebook shore sightings report of five killer whales east bound off of Sooke at ~1300.
Mark invited Val to join him and Joe in an attempt to relocate them. They departed Victoria harbour at 1430 and made their way towards Race Rocks.
With a maximum ebb current at Race and moderate southwest winds the seas were a bit choppy. As they approached Race Passage close to 2 hours after the 1300 sighting off of Sooke they guessed that the whales would be between 6 and 8 nm east of Sooke by now as they were swimming against a strong ebb current. This would likely put them somewhere between Becher Bay and Whirl Bay. As Mike 1 exited Race Pass at 1453 they spotted a group of killer whales approaching directly off of their bow near Whirl Bay on their last 2 surfacings before going into a long dive (48 18.3/123 33.8). It appeared they were moving quickly so Mike 1 turned around and trolled eastward until the group resurfaced a few minutes later off their port quarter. The whales passed by Mike 1's port side on a line for Race Pass and Joe immediately recognized them as the T075B's and T075C's, five individuals as reported.
The seas were relatively calm where they were but were stacked up with the strong SW wind and adverse ebb current slightly offshore. Unfortunately the whales decided to turn offshore, making it very challenging for the encounter. The Mike 1 crew was able to track them for the next 35 minutes as they worked their way to the south of Race Rocks. The seas were now ~ 6 foot and short and steep so the only hope to continue tracking the whales was if they were to cross the current line and get into the flatter water on the east side of Race Rocks which Mike 1 was forced to do. Unfortunately the whales did not and after several minutes of the crew scanning in all directions and waiting for them to reappear, Mark spotted a group of gulls circling to the south in the big seas and confirmed with binoculars the whales were under them, likely prey sharing. With no way of safely making their way back against the six feet standing waves, Mike 1 ended the encounter at 1529 (48 17.4/123 30.9) and returned to Victoria harbour.