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UAV Encounter #12 - Sept 6, 2023
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ObservBegin:10:55 AM

ObservEnd:02:00 PM


UAV ID:Columbia

Pilot:Michael Weiss

Operators:Michael Weiss

Other Staff:Dave Ellifrit

Other Observers:Federica Spina, Alyssa Kelley


Start Latitude:48 30.54

Start Longitude:122 59.22

End Latitude:48 29.01

End Longitude:123 06.47



Since there had been several groups of Bigg’s killer whales in the area on the 5th, the team had decided to get up early on the 6th and go on a whale search. We left Snug Harbor on Wednesday morning at about 0750 and headed north up Haro Strait. We rounded Turn Point and went up Boundary Pass on the American side, past Skipjack Island, and around the west side of Patos Island. We had been stopping periodically to scan with binocs but were not seeing anything but harbor porpoises. After rounding the lighthouse on the west end of Patos Island, we headed east on the north side of Patos and Sucia Islands towards the north end of Alden Bank. We then headed south along the west side of Alden Bank past the east end of Matia Island. About here, we heard over the radio that a group of Bigg’s had been found right off Friday Harbor. We decided to head in that direction and look for more whales on the way. We then passed Barnes and Clark Islands on their east side, headed southwest at Lawrence Point and passed between the Peapod Rocks and the Orcas Island shoreline. Next, we headed through Obstruction Pass, down Upright Channel, and towards the north end of Griffin Bay where the whales now were.

We arrived on scene at 1055 with the whales being deep in North Bay at the north end of Griffin Bay. The four whales present were T37A3, T37A4, T137A, and T137D-the same four whales who had traveled up the west side of SJI the day before. The whales came out of North Bay and headed slowly south in Griffin Bay past the east side of Dinner Island. We had a couple of ID passes on them as they traveled slowly south in the Bay while we were getting gently rained on. The whales went deep into the south end of Griffin Bay before turning east toward Cape San Juan. The encounter was a drone encounter from here on out. The four whales then exited Cattle Pass with T137A separating himself from the others a little. When out of the pass, the whales turned north with T137A being about a half mile south of the other three who went way inshore towards South Beach. T37A3, T37A4, and T137D continued to forage north along South Beach while T137A foraged offshore. Near Eagle Point, T137A came back to the other three and at least one seal kill was made near the south end of False Bay. We ended the encounter off Hannah Heights at 1400 with the whales, once again, heading up the west side of San Juan Island.


Photos taken under Federal Permits


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