Summary: August 21st 2023

Northern Residents: A23s, I16s, A42s, B07s, I12s

Pacific White-sided Dolphins


Humpbacks: Inukshuk, Argonaut

Photo: Serah Rounds-Zavitz

Just a step or two behind on this summary. It turned out to be a complicated day right from the start. We know that four pairs of groups remained in Johnstone Strait. These were the A23s, the I16s, the A42s and the B07s. We had totally lost track of the A52s and I12s shortly after they had entered Johnstone Strait the previous afternoon. It turned out that at sometime and somehow they left the area – perhaps soon after their entrance. We know this because later in the day Scotty found at least two of the I12s (there are only three members) near Port Hardy airport before 5pm. Scotty could not locate I138 nor the A52s..

At 1:20am distant A5s in Johnstone Strait became quite excited and a short while later the I16s were heard along with the A5s and Pacific White-sided dolphins. The calls in the Strait had been quite constant and captured by three of the remote hydrophones suggesting the whales were fairly spread out. At 1:57am the A42s and the B07s were a bit more specific. They started a rub at Strider. They were excited and fully into the rub. Some of the calls spilled over to nearby Main beach. By 2:07am the rub was over and from there the A42s and the B07s went east.

The direction for the A23s and I16s had been more generally westward through the early hours. By daylight we were able to follow them on a remote camera. At 6:20am they were opposite Cracroft Point. As they crossed the entrance to Blackney Pass they made some very clear and beautiful calls then suddenly went very quiet as a huge cruise ship went through their ranks. They continued west to about Big Bay on Hanson Island by 7am. From there they doubled back to the entrance and at 7:35am they came through and into our view. A60 and A23s were in the lead with the I16s following in scattered groups. All cleared into Blackfish Sound by 8:05am. By 8:30am they were angling towards and approaching Queen Charlotte Strait. As they did so, Scotty found a group of Bigg’s orcas off Telegraph Cove (definitely not those regular T060s who were seen off Victoria!).

There was just enough of a gap in the orca activity for us to sit down with James, Ed and Arabella for one last breakfast before their departure later in the morning. They had been so lucky to choose this week in August for their visit as it coincided with a lot of Northern Resident activity. We believe they had a very good time.

Between 11:32am and 11:43am the A23s and the I15s were well into Queen Charlotte Strait and the Bigg’s had elected for Pearse Passage. By 12:38pm the Bigg’s orcas were off the Plumper Islands and soon to shift into Weynton Pass. Most likely these were the same Bigg’s to reappear off Donegal Head (seen by Alex) at 3:47pm and later back in Johnstone Strait just before 6pm having doubled back through Weynton Pass. By 8:26pm these Bigg’s were angling toward the Sophia Islands and by 8:50pm were passing the “Pig Ranch” on Cracroft Island (just east of the Sophia’s). By 10pm Boat Bay heard their blows pass mid strait. As a postscript to these wanderings, Pacific White-sided dolphins were heard not far away between 10:23 and 10:30pm.

Meanwhile, the A23s and the I16s were doing the following. They continued west and reached the “top” end of Malcolm Island from 3:11pm to 3:30pm. On their way west, Kate reported that they tried (only one young one succeeded)) to come in for a rub at Bere point but too much on shore human activity seemed to discourage the whales and they left. The A42s and the B07s were easting off Naka Creek around this same time period.

It was at 4:46pm that Scotty located I12 and I105 near the Port Hardy airport. He returned to Lizard Point to try and find I138 unsuccessfully.

At 6:49pm the A23s and I16s had retraced their steps to Donegal Head. They began to shift toward Weynton Passage about 12 minutes later. Claire, Jérémie, Paul and Helena were at Double Bay in the late afternoon to have dinner with Michael Reppy and Ingrid Visser who was visiting the Sanctuary from New Zealand and is a friend of Paul, Helena, Claire and Jérémie’s. Ingrid is well known for her research on the New Zealand orcas and her dedication as an anti captivity advocate. It was a beautiful sunset as some of the visitors accompanied Scotty out to see the A23s and I16s as they moved toward Weynton Passage.

Back at the Lab and before the dinner party returned, Inukshuk the humpback decided to take a rest close to the Lab around 7:40pm. A lone sea lion came up to him and for a while the two interacted.

The A23s and the I16s on entering Johnstone Strait actually headed west and were off Telegraph Cove around 8:30pm.

And with this the long day pretty much wrapped up. The night would start yet another story!

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