2021 Encounters

Encounter #34 - June 7, 2021
L124_L77

L124_L77

Photo by Mark Malleson

L119

L119

Photo by Mark Malleson

L119

L119

Photo by Mark Malleson

L108

L108

Photo by Mark Malleson

L88

L88

Photo by Mark Malleson

L88

L88

Photo by Mark Malleson

L88

L88

Photo by Joe Zelweitro

L85

L85

Photo by Joe Zelweitro

L85

L85

Photo by Mark Malleson

L85

L85

Photo by Joe Zelweitro

L85

L85

Photo by Mark Malleson

L85

L85

Photo by Mark Malleson

L77_L124

L77_L124

Photo by Mark Malleson

L77

L77

Photo by Mark Malleson

L25

L25

Photo by Mark Malleson

L54

L54

Photo by Mark Malleson

L25

L25

Photo by Mark Malleson

L25

L25

Photo by Mark Malleson

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Photos taken under Federal Permits

NMFS PERMIT: 21238/ DFO SARA 388

EncDate: 07/06/21

EncSeq: 1

Enc#: 34

ObservBegin: 11:36 AM

ObservEnd: 01:10 PM

Vessel: Mike 1

Staff: Mark Malleson

Other Observers: Joe Zelwietro

Pods: L

LocationDescr: Swiftsure Bank

Start Latitude: 48 31.2

Start Longitude: 124 48.7

End Latitude: 48 32.0

End Longitude: 124 49.5

EncSummary:

Mark and Joe departed Victoria at 0730, looking to make use of a rare June weather window at the mouth of the Juan de Fuca Strait. They traveled in calm seas and a slowly building swell until they came across a mother and calf humpback whale at 1005 off the mouth of Port San Juan in the western reaches of the Strait. After a quick look and photographs, they decided to work their way out toward Swiftsure Bank.

Conditions were difficult, but even in the 3 to, 4 metre swells, they were eventually able to spot several scattered humpback blows roughly 5 nautical miles south of Carmanah Point and were just beginning to work through them; when Mark spotted a lone killer whale dorsal fin on the horizon! As the animal surfaced again, it was clear that the bull was traveling on a north-north easterly line toward Mike 1. They began the encounter at 1136.

The bull was apparently just beginning his breathing cycle and surfaced several more times, though he showed little saddle patch in the swell. No matter, the familiar towering fin of L85 is distinct enough! On his second cycle, the ID was confirmed, and Mark and Joe began scanning farther into the deep for more of the L12 and L22 sub-groups. A female appeared just 300 metres from L85; it was L25, the presumed eldest Southern Resident. They also spotted a second grown bull nearly 3/4 of a mile directly astern of L85 but were not able to re-sight him after just two breaths. They instead moved to a pair of animals traveling close together, L77 and L124, who were shortly joined by L119. These three briefly foraged and were heard vocalizing through the aluminum hull of the research boat. Nearby but slightly behind the trio was likely L22, though neither Mark nor Joe was able to photograph her as she dipped in and out of the overhead swell.

After a second fruitless effort to re-find a presumed L89 and photograph L22, the Mike 1 crew turned and traveled slowly up-swell in the direction from which the whales had come. Roughly a mile south-southwest of the spread L12s, they spotted a tight group of three, quickly confirmed to be L54 and her surviving offspring, L108, and L117. All three were traveling steadily toward the others, and their constant companion L88 was shortly spotted just a couple hundred meters behind. He was less directional, circling over possible prey, but no predation was observed before he too moved along.

Mark and Joe ended the encounter there at 1310 at 48° 32.0’ N / 124° 49.5’ W, 5.5 nautical miles SSW of Carmanah Point. Conditions were deteriorating, and it would be a long ride home.