Encounter #1 - Jan 3, 2021
ObservBegin: 10:26 AM
ObservEnd: 11:25 AM
Staff: Dave Ellifrit
LocationDescr: Mitchell Bay and Kellett Bluff
Start Latitude: 48 35.00
Start Longitude: 123 11.80
End Latitude: 48 35.30
End Longitude: 123 12.40
Ken called Dave Sunday morning to say that he had just taken a few photos of a small group of transients as they passed CWR heading north. The weather was not great as it was breezy with rain squalls in the area but the whales were close so Dave decided to give it a shot. After grabbing his camera and warm cloths, Dave headed to Snug Harbor and left in the boat at 1020.
As he putted out of the harbor, Dave debated the wisdom of going out since was it now raining with a big black cloud hanging over Kellett Bluff and Haro Strait was lumpy and white cappy. It looked pretty dark and wet out there if the whales had gone up Haro Strait. As the boat neared the mouth of Open Bay, Dave was looking hard through rain covered glasses deep into Open Bay in case the whales went in there when he got a big whiff of blubber oil on the wind. Dave then looked south and saw a large, obvious oil slick in the choppy seas about a quarter mile south of the mouth of Open Bay. The whales had obviously made a kill and were hopefully still close by. Sure enough, a fin soon appeared at the northwest edge of the slick and then a few more popped up with it. The encounter began at 1026. The four whales were milling and feeding while the sun peeked out a little and a rainbow appeared. The whales were being friendly while they fed but were not coming up for good ID shots at first. The sprouter looked like he might be T60D but then Dave saw that he had a nick so it must be someone else. This was not a group that Dave was familiar with although he had an idea who it might be-he just needed a better look at the mom. At 1032, all four whales went on a long dive and disappeared from the area they were feeding in. After a long five minutes, Dave got out the binocs and started scanning and eventually spotted a fin deep in Open Bay. The whales had appeared to be hunting again when they were in Open Bay. By the time the boat got there, the whales had grouped up and were heading back out of Open Bay in a tight group. The group was pointed southwest when they went on a long dive at the mouth of Open Bay.
Dave got a good enough shot of the mom to convince him that he had the T167s. T167A had sprouted since the last pictures Dave had looked at of him. The T167s have shown up a few times in the last several years (Mark just saw them on December 31, 2020) although they are not a common group in our area and Dave hadn’t had a chance to see them yet. Dave had seen T167 herself several times back in the late 1990s up in Southeast Alaska when she still used to travel with T165 and T166.
After another six minute plus long dive, the whales showed up again in a tight group about a quarter mile west of the south end of Kellett Bluff. The whales began milling and feeding again with lots of gulls overhead trying to get a scrap. There is a good chance that the T167s made their kill in Open Bay and carried it out before feeding on it. The whales milled, fed, and rolled around for more than twenty minutes before they went on another lengthy long dive. When they came up again, they were traveling north in a tight group toward Kellett Bluff. The encounter ended at 1125 with the whales heading north near the northern Kellett Bluff shoreline.
Photos taken under Federal Permits
NMFS PERMIT: 21238/ DFO SARA 388