Monday, June 22, 2009

6-6-09 Whale of A Mystery -Spock and Comet

The year was 2009...
Saturday, June 6th - Chapter 1
I love a good mystery but not when it comes to these endangered killer whales...
I didn't see a single killer whale today, but a lot of people saw two...that's right just two...one person thought they saw three fins up at the same time...another person said they saw six but not six fins all at once...but throughout the day only 2 whales were ever seen...and there were a lot of people out there looking for miles and miles - from shore and from boats...
...it was only Spock K-20 and her 4 year old, Comet K-38...


...NO OTHER WHALES were seen in the Salish Sea - anywhere...strange very, very strange...

...this year has already been as a strange year as far as sightings go, and today really added to it...



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Sunday, June 7th - Chapter 2
...the last I had heard, Spock and Comet had gone up through Boundary Pass yesterday...and continued north as if they were going to the Fraser River...
But on Sunday afternoon they showed up in an unlikely location...
...I got a call from a friend saying she had seen Spock and Comet off American Camp at about 3 pm and the two whales were heading up island...but she doesn't carry a cell phone and couldn't call until they got home, which was about an hour and a half later...in that length of time Spock and Comet could be long gone from shore viewing...
...as we were talking I saw the Peregrine, Capt. Jim's boat ...soon he began to motor slowly down island...I called him and let him know the situation...
...I had to give it a try...would I miss them as I drove south and they were coming north?

...I headed down island and spotted them about a mile or so off shore about 2 miles south of the park, heading down island! I got a hold of Capt. Jim...he got to the whales...took photos for proof of presence of Spock and Comet! - awesome!  ...it is likely they may have been dismissed as a couple transients -  but Capt. Jim's pictures showed proof - yes!

Spock and Comet were going against the flooding currents and it would change to an ebb in about 2 hours...they seemed to be feeding in a tide rip or maybe just going slowly against the current...

questions on my mind...
Why just the 2 of them?
Where are the other 4 K Pod whales of the K13 subgroup that Spock and Comet belong to?...the 6 K13s had traveled with J Pod for two weeks in May.
The statement that 'they never leave their families their entire lives' - is that no longer going to be true?
Is there something wrong with one or both of them?

...just posing some questions, I have no answers...


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Monday, June 8th - Chapter 3

...this morning I learned that there were killer whales at Secretary Island (in the Strait of Juan de Fuca) heading west...that was at 6:30...by 10 a.m. they had made it to the Sooke area...looking as if they were going out....but they stopped and milled about...and began to come back in... oh and yes it was Spock and Comet...

...by 12:10 I heard they were about 4+ miles south of Constance Bank, still heading east...
...a while later they were about 3.5 miles north of Dungeonness Spit still going east...
...then around 3p.m. Protection Island still going east...

...I began to wonder if they would continue east and continue on by Admiralty Inlet and go up the west side of Whidbey Island...anything but the Sound...

...according to one report they were seen at Ebey's Landing and Partridge Pt. areas late in the day.- that would be the most western point on the west side of Whidbey Island...
(...I got my information from others, so this is what I think I know...)

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Tuesday, June 9th - Chapter 4


Day four...where will Spock and Comet be this morning?....down in Puget Sound?...out in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, like yesterday morning?...or back up closer to San Juan Island?...

..I left early to see if I could find them...oh, but there is so much water out there, I'd never find them...but then I couldn't just sit at home and hope someone else would....
..I scanned and drove farther south, scanned and drove again...paused for a bald eagle at False Bay...

...drove and scanned again...I got a call that there were whales coming up island so I back tracked and scanned and waited...and waited...I was just about to give up with "kwuuffff" or however you spell the sound of a whale exhaling...

...it was Spock and Comet slowly moving up island - again against the ebbing currents - at a steady pace...

...as I watched them approach I saw Comet change direction and move in toward the shore...then Spock changed direction too and then I saw Spock logging for just a few seconds...those changes lasted less than a minute and then they began to move north at a steady pace....that was at about 10 a.m.

...a short clip of Spock and Comet as they passed by along the park...

video

...so nice to see them..yet everyone is concerned for them...a short while later when they passed Andrews Bay, Comet made a direction change...after a fish maybe...it was only once and then back on track with mom up ahead.

...I think a lot of people are wondering if they are eating or not...so now every move they make that's different from the slow travel mode is...well is different, is all I can say...
...by 12:15 they were about 1/2 mile west of Battleship Island...
...at 1:18 they were headed for Mouat Point...

...Katherine, dog Tucker and crew of the 'dog boat' left Spock and Comet at about 3:00 pm after they had gone through Active Pass. Katherine also said that early on there was a bit of milling and two breaches off Henry Island, most likely by Comet K-38...but that was it...
...Capt. Jim said that at 6:15 pm Spock and Comet were heading toward East Pt., which meant they were coming back toward Boundary Pass...would they come down the west side or go down Rosario Strait (which it appears they may have done during the night between day 1 and 2)?


more questions and ponderings:
..are the others out on the outer coast waiting for Spock and Comet to show up...who 'hugs the tree' so to speak...are the ones not here 'hugging the tree' out there on the outer coast and Spock and Comet doing the same here in the inland waters...therefore not finding each other...


...how will they find each other?...will it take Granny, the matriarch of the community to bring J Pod in and they stumble upon one another?...

...or will it be Skagit K-13 - Spock's mom and Comet's grandmother to bring the rest of the family in so they will find each other?...



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Wednesday, June 10th - Chapter 5

...I get a call to let me know whales were nearby...off I went and was able to get pictures of them...they were so far from shore, but with Spock's distinct saddle patch and Comet surfacing next to her...
...seeing Mega L-41's tall dorsal fin...
...and then 3 other members of the L12s group...

...Spock and Comet had met up with some friends...
...someone asked if what they thought they heard last night, at about 11pm, could have been Spock and Comet...
...it was most likely the L12s who must have come in undetected...it was just too great a distance for Spock and Comet to cover between 6:15 and 11pm...when the whales were first seen this morning they were coming up island...and as you can see from the images above, the whales had turned and were heading back down island...typical for the L12s... 

...the next day they were off the southwest side of the island again...only Mega and Ocean Sun L25 passed by the lighthouse before turning and going back down island...
 


NO MORE 'TREE HUGGING' NEEDED but Spock and Comet are still not 'home' just yet, with the rest of their family...I just hope they will stick with the L12s...

Capt Jim got a great breach shot of Comet and finally we now know that Comet is a male!!


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Thursday, June 18th - Chapter 6

A week later...they were spotted 'in coming' (Strait of Juan de Fuca) with J Pod!!

I was on Capt. Jim's boat and we went out to meet the whales as they came in...Spock and Comet were right up in the lead and zoomed past us...

...then came the rest...the L12s and all of J pod...and in toward San Juan Island they were headed...we had to leave before they made it to Haro Strait...
 
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Friday, June 19th - Chapter 7
...it gets even more interesting...
...after dark the evening before, the whales made it in to Haro Strait...at some point in the night they went north, but we don't know if they all did or just J pod, whales where seen way to the north today, but there was no confirmation on who it was...

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Saturday, June 20th - Chapter 8
...okay, now it's getting really wild...

SO...this morning J Pod showed up going to the south end of the island very early..thanks to a phone call, I took off in my car to try to locate them...I located them off Salmon Bank...I watched them for a while and they seemed to be hanging around there or a bit farther out...but later I learned that no one could find them...then a report came in that whales were seen at at place called Whirl Bay...out by Race Rocks...but that was too far in that time frame...so that couldn't be J Pod...or could it?...

..we were on our way, when 'magically' J Pod appeared coming up island, ...out on Capt. Jim's boat...we went to find the leaders...they were approaching Turn Pt. ...we were hoping to see Ruffles J-1 and Granny J-2 - we did...

...and guess who was with them?....Yes! - Spock and Comet...when I first saw Spock's saddle patch, I thought for sure it was her and excitedly called back to Capt. Jim..."you gotta get up there I think Spock and Comet are with Ruffles and Granny!"....I was so excited when I confirmed with my camera and binos that it was them...!
...the four of them were way up ahead of the rest of J Pod...they were surfacing and diving closely together...

Ruffles was animated!! ... tail lobbing, on his back, pec slaps - the most active I think I have ever seen him in my 5 years watching...he even came bursting through the surface with a forward leap...

...Spock breached...and Comet...and Granny too!

I wonder how long the 'company' will remain with J Pod?
Will they stay until K Pod returns?
Will J Pod stay in now for a while?
Will Spock and Comet now stay with J Pod as part of the 'realignment' or 'restructuring' since Lummi K-7 died last year? 

 

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Sunday June 21st - Chapter 9

Oh the whales!..what a surprise of a day!...rain in the morning, breaking into sunshine as the whales began to pass by at the light, going up the west side...(it appeared they had gone down Rosario St. last night)...who would be here today?...and who would be traveling with whom?.... I just couldn't wait to find out!

...nice to see Shachi J-19, Eclipse J-41 and Spieden J-8 in a proximity closer to Ruffles and Granny than they had been yesterday...and instead of Ruffles being with Spock, Spirit L-22 was his companion, at least for a while...

...speaking of Spock, she and Comet were with Samish J-14 and her kids..very cool...as the whales were passing by at the light they began to forage...it's amazing to watch..whales going in every direction at the same time...then circling...sometimes lunging...sometimes what looks to be playing...it was only for a few minutes as they continued to move north...


...they were moving at a 'normal speed' and didn't seem unusually excited...
...I wonder if they knew someone else was on their way down...

...the next thing we heard was word that the rest of L Pod (maybe 30 more whales) and maybe even the rest of K Pod (17 more whales) were heading south...they came through Active Pass, through Swanson Channel down toward Turn Pt....J Pod, Spock and Comet and the L12s were heading up toward Turn Pt.

 

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Monday, June 22nd - The Last Chapter

aahhh...back with their family...

Spock and Comet were with their family, the rest of K pod, and all of J pod were present as they came down island toward Lime Kiln and beyond...and that's what occurred with Spock and Comet from June 6th - June 22nd.


post script:  Spock and Comet have stayed with their family ever since (as of the end of 2012)...as far as we know :)