Photo: Megan Hockin-Bennett – A23s on August 15th 2023
Somehow, the A23s returned to Johnstone Strait during the night and travelled east towards the Ecological Reserve. At 1:20am they were at Strider Rubbing beach in the Robson Bight (Michael Bigg) Ecological Reserve and began a brief rub. The mystery as to what they might do next was solved when echolocation and a few calls were heard further east off Main Rubbing beach letting us know that the A23s had kept going east. They were out of range of the hydrophones after 3am. The rest of the night was uneventful.
The morning was very pleasant. The high winds of the previous evening had subsided and the fog which eventually descended was not very thick. The morning was made better with a report from Sea Wolf that there were orcas (the A23s) travelling west from Naka Creek. So we waited with the Strider remote camera trained to the east. Along came the A23s close to the Vancouver Island shore at 9:15am. They did not stop for a rub however and were spread out enough that there were calls detected from the more easterly rubbing beach hydrophone at 9:30am. By 10am they were all on their way towards Robson Bight. They made an exit out of the Reserve just before 11am. They stayed on the Vancouver Island side and eventually we could see them as they approached Izumi Rock around 11:15am west of the Bight. A60 had a porpoise companion for part of his journey while the others travelling together splashed, tail lobbed, breached and pec slapped their own way west. Although there were no calls, the A23s made quite a lot of echolocation clicks as they gradually moved away from the shorel. By the time they reached the Kaikash area they were well offshore and angling towards Cracroft Point. Once closer to the Cracroft Island side they stalled and contented themselves with moving back and forth, east and west. A60 independently found his way to the rip west of Cracroft Point. By this time they had attracted a lot of boats, whale watchers and casual recreational boats alike. The A23s continued regardless, even spyhopping and breaching occasionally. The afternoon wore on and finally the A23s regrouped and began to angle towards the entrance of Blackney Pass by 4:20pm. This was ahead of slack tide and the current was not set to change until 5:37pm. The push into Blackney progressed well and by 4:44pm they were well into the Pass and travelling together mid channel opposite Parson Island. By 5pm they were opposite White Beach Pass and looking as if they would easily carry forward as they passed a couple of humpbacks as they went. About six minutes later, when just about to West Pass, they inexplicably turned and took the remaining flood tide back to the entrance of Blackney Pass. They cleared our view by 5:30pm, then traversed the last leg of the Pass and reentered Johnstone Strait by 5:51pm, just after the tide had turned. From then on they worked against the current and proceeded eastward past Cracroft Point. From 6:10pm onward they began to angle slowly towards Vancouver Island. They were opposite the Sophia Islands, resting into the opposing current, just before 7pm. They made no calls until 9:02pm when they reached Strider and went for a ten minute rub. Just as they had at 1:20am they continued east. Calls were heard on the Main beach hydrophone until 9:25pm. They weren’t alone. Dolphins, also on the Main beach system, chimed in at 9:30pm. So just like yesterday the “last word” went to the dolphins.