Encounter #2 - Jan 6, 2021
ObservBegin: 11:30 AM
ObservEnd: 02:11 PM
Vessel: Mike 1
Staff: Mark Malleson
Other Observers: Joe Zelwietro
Pods: J, K
Location Descr: Victoria waterfront
Start Latitude: 48 22.2
Start Longitude: 123 24.4
End Latitude: 48 21.9
End Longitude: 123 28.3
Mark received a call from Joe Zelwietro at 1028 that he was looking at several eastbound killer whales from shore, in the vicinity of Constance Bank. They mobilized and departed the harbor on Mike 1 at 1120. By the time they reached Ogden Point, the whales had flipped around to face west and blows could be seen spread from the Victoria pilot station to Constance Bank. The encounter began a few hundred meters west of the “VH” buoy at 1130 (48 22.2/123 24.4).
Two of the first whales encountered were J38 and K44, travelling side-by-side and confirming suspicions that the animals were Southern Residents. At the same time, there was an outbound container ship in the pilot station that apparently annoyed Mark and Joe more than it did the whales, as they cruised calmly alongside for a few minutes before it outpaced them and headed for sea. J40 was identified in a small group of females and juveniles which also included J41, J51 and J58. J37 and her youngster J49 were just apart from them with J31, J46 and J44. At least two of the J16s, the matriarch and J42, were just beyond them to the west. There were a few others in the area, but the animals were only together briefly before splitting into pairs and foraging.
Well to the south of this initial pocket of animals were two bulls, one grown and one sprouting, so Mark and Joe proceeded that way, looking for more of the whales that had been present for recent Southern Resident encounters. These animals proved very difficult to approach due to the strong ebb current and long foraging dives. Eventually the pair surfaced roughly one nautical mile offshore of William Head; it was J27 and K34 working a current line, though no obvious predation was observed. At this point, the whales were spread several miles north and east, but nothing obvious was south of them. Mark and Joe decided to work slowly back to the north and Victoria, opportunistically collecting IDs along the way. Many of the whales they came across were now ENE bound moving out from Parry Bay and Albert Head toward Victoria or Clover Point, though occasional chases were still being observed. Mark photographed J22, J36 and J37 in a tight group to the southeast of Albert Head before Mike 1 moved inshore to again find J16, now joined by J26. The two were actively chasing fish and appeared to catch at least one (and possibly a second) but the boat was not close enough for her crew to notice scales in the water or any other proof of predation.
As J16 and J26 dove aiming east, they ended the encounter at 1411 (48 21.9/123 28.3) and after briefly identifying a pair of westbound humpbacks, headed for home. The bulk of the killer whales that they had encountered were still visible as Mike 1 approached the harbor entrance, and all were still spread out, foraging and trending east within a couple miles of the Ogden Point breakwater. Between them, Mark and Joe managed to confirm many of the 34 animals from the previous few weeks; representatives from each matriline of J pod and the K14s were present. K38 was the only individual from the K13’s confirmed; however, the whales were well spread and with the long foraging dives it is likely that the rest of the K13’s and K14’s were around - at one point, J26 was timed at over eight minutes on one of his trips below the surface!
Photos taken under Federal Permits
NMFS PERMIT: 21238/ DFO SARA 388