Summary: August 19th 2023

Northern Residents: A42s, A23s, B07s, I16s
I12s, A52s Port Hardy area

Southern Residents: Georgia Strait

Pacific White Sided Dolphins

Humpback: Stitch

The Midnight Express: After their interesting choice of entry into the area, though Broughton strait, the A42s and the B07s headed east in Johnstone Strait, their progress registered by the various hydrophones at the remote sites. At 12:40am the A23s had arrived as well although it was unlikely that they took the same route. More likely they used either of the more traditional ways via Weynton Pass or Blackney Pass. Whichever, they effectively followed the A42s and B07s after reaching Johnstone Strait.

The A42s, by 1am, were close to Strider Beach. Within 10 minutes they began a rub. Ten minutes later they did so again at Main Rubbing beach and then continued east from there. All three groups could be heard at the same time for a short while. The B07s and A42s continued east out of range of the hydrophones. The A23s, meanwhile, lagging about an hour and a half behind, went for their own four minute rub at Strider beach at 2:56am. This was followed by a quick minute rub at Main. They then seemed to move offshore and travel to the east a while longer. At 6:15am they were back opposite Main beach and headed towards Strider where at 6:30am they (all but A60) had a fairly decent rub for twenty-three minutes. They then travelled west along the Vancouver Island side with dolphins in tow. As they were doing so a report came in to say that 4 orcas were opposite Alert Bay headed west. We do not know who these whales were. Were they Bigg’s orcas? By 9am the A23s meanwhile passed Kaikash Beach. They had no intention of coming into Blackney Pass but carried on along the Vancouver Island shore until reaching Blinkhorn Peninsula where they turned at 10:25am.

By now we were aware that there was another incoming group off Donegal Head as Jared Towers, on his way elsewhere, let us know at 9:43am. This would turn out to be at least the I16s. As we waited for the “new” group to head our way the A23s were making their way east back to Strider beach where at 1pm they rubbed before continuing eastward. They were reported passing the Reserve’s eastern boundary at 1:46pm.

During the day a large group (40+) of Southern Resident orcas had made their way all the way to Cape Mudge, Quadra Island. Not unheard of for Southern Residents to be in Georgia Strait but it was rather unusual for them to come so far north. They had done this last year as well. OrcaLab’s Suzie and Quin actually saw them when near Campbell River.

With great determination on the part of those watching the remote cameras in the Lab, the I16s were located in Blackfish Sound at 2pm. On the remote Flower Island camera they travelled east relatively close to the Hanson Island shore. In just under an hour they came into our view. They were all together and still favouring our side. As they travelled through (along with several whale watching boats) they angled further out to mid channel. They were moving efficiently and by 3:08pm they had disappeared into the last part of the passage. Just seven minutes later they came into Megan’s view from Cracroft Point. The current was strong and pushed them at first to the west a bit but they managed to right themselves and by 2:10pm found themselves opposite Sophia Islands. Just as had others they went for a rub at Strider (between 6:33pm and 6:48pm) and at Main (between 6:51pm and 6:52pm) and carried on to the east. Their last calls were at 7:20pm as they too disappeared east.

A late report from Boat Bay at 10:30pm said that orcas were passing their camp headed west, They were taking long dives. Just before midnight Tomoko listening in japan, heard Bs and A5s and then refined her identifications to include both the A42s (and A94), the A23s and the I16s – they were all returning west!

There was encouraging news from the north. The A54s and the A50s were seen in Whale Channel. This was the first report of the A50s – we had been worried about their absence here and the lack of information regarding their whereabouts elsewhere.

On other fronts, the I12s and A52s were identified in Gordon Channe/Christie Pass (Port Hardy area)l by Lance. This begs the question of who will next arrive in the Blackfish Sound/Johnstone Strait area?

Our UK visitor, James remarked that the highlight of his day was seeing orcas for the very first time in the wild and realising that those same individuals were making those wonderful sounds or as James put it “that whale, making that sound!

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