Encounter #3 - Jan 10, 2021
ObservBegin: 11:51 AM
ObservEnd: 01:18 PM
Vessel: Mike 1
Staff: Mark Malleson
Other Observers: Joe Zelwietro
LocationDescr: Race Passage
Start Latitude: 48 18.3
Start Longitude: 123 32.8
End Latitude: 48 20.2
End Longitude: 123 26.0
At around 1006 Mark received a second-hand report from his friend and colleague Val Messier that a small group of killer whales had been spotted close to shore near Otter Point at ~0900 heading east. He and Joe had planned to head out on Mike 1 at 1100, as the sea conditions in the Juan de Fuca Strait west of Race Rocks looked good for a search, so they got in motion.
They left Victoria harbour at 1110 and worked south on a line slightly east of Race Rocks. They came across a possible old oil slick from a kill slightly east of Race Passage, but with no sightings after a good binocular scan from them and from Gord with Big Eyes from his 23rd-floor perch, they continued west for Race Passage. As Joe trolled slowly through Race Passage as they scanned in all directions, Mark went to the stern of Mike 1 to have a final look behind them.
They both felt that with the tail end of the flood current that the whales would have made it this far by now. Sure enough! At 1151 a bull and a female or juvenile surfaced less than a quarter-mile off their starboard quarter along the shoreline of Bentinck Island (48 18.3/123 32.8). Mark hollered to Joe, "Killer whales!" and had him do a 180. They trolled back to the northeast in the confused seas from the strong current and moderate east winds until they had a re-sight of a group of 4 individuals northeast bound exiting Race Passage and heading toward a bait ball.
Joe was the first to confirm that it was the T060 group less T060's second and third eldest sons, T060D and E. These two have intermittently dispersed from the family since August of 2019, around the same time T060G was born.
It appeared that they found a seal amongst the bait ball and prey shared as they slowly traveled north towards Pedder Bay. They were doing very long dives, upwards of 9 minutes, while they searched for another meal. They found one offshore of Pedder Bay (48 20.7/123 29.2). After making short work of likely another seal, the whales continued north before turning east offshore of Parry Bay and taking a line for Constance Bank. They picked up the pace to nearly 7 knots for a few minutes as they continued their eastern track before slowing down and milling as if they were waiting for another prey item to come to the surface for air. Mark and Joe ended the encounter here at 1318 (48 20.2/123 26.0) as the animals decided to abandon this possible hunt and continue traveling with a slight change of direction to the northeast.
Photos taken under Federal Permits
NMFS PERMIT: 21238/ DFO SARA 388