top of page
UAV Encounter #16 - Oct 4, 2023
Your financial support makes our work possible





ObservBegin:03:24 PM

ObservEnd:06:03 PM


UAV ID:Columbia

Pilot:Michael Weiss

Operators:Michael Weiss

Other Staff:Dave Ellifrit


LocationDescr:Haro Strait and Spieden Channel

Start Latitude:48 34.45

Start Longitude:123 10.28

End Latitude:48 38.98

End Longitude:123 09.83



San Juan Island was socked in with fog for most of the day. In the afternoon, as the fog began to lift, the team heard reports over the radio of a group of whales on the west side, heading north from San Juan County Park. The team ran down to the beach, where they photographed the whales as they swam past very close to shore. The team IDed the whales as the T49As, without T49A1 or T49A2. The team met up at Snug to see if they could get some drone footage of the whales, and got off the dock at 15:24.

When the team left Snug, the whales were hunting a seal just outside the harbor in Mitchell Bay. The team launched the drone and observed the whales processing and sharing their kill, before heading north towards Open Bay. The whales picked up speed and rounded Kellet Bluff, heading up Henry Island. They cut inshore of Battleship, taking a moment to rest in a kelp bed before heading east through Spieden Channel.

The whales slowly made their way past Barren Island and Davison Head, before taking a turn and heading northeast towards Green Point. The team saw that there were several Steller sea lions on the point, and hoped the whales might attempt a hunt. However, after approaching the south side of Spieden, the whales made a turn and headed back west along the Spieden shoreline, making a few harbor seal kills as they went.

As the whales passed Sentinel Rock, the group split, with T49A, T49A3, and T49A6 moving further west while T49A4 and T49A5 hunted together to the east. The trio reached Danger Shoal and then turned back around to meet up with the other two.

After meeting back up, the whales headed towards the western tip of Spieden. T49A6 went off on his own back east, before porpoising back towards the rest of the group. As the main group rounded Spieden, they happened upon a seal in the shallows. The whales swiped at the seal and attempted to catch it, but the lucky seal managed to hurl itself out of the water and onto the safety of the rock. T49A6 followed behind a couple minutes later, apparently eager to catch up with the rest of the family.

The whales spread out and milled near Spieden Bluff. As the light started to fade, the team ended the encounter at 18:03 and headed home.


Photos taken under Federal Permits


bottom of page