As we were heading back to Juneau from a camping trip, we spotted a large pod of orcas near Howard Bay in Chatham Strait. The pod was spread out over a large area. It was difficult to determine how many individuals there were. We did manage to get photos of two large males. This pod has been identified as AG pod (Alaska resident orcas). As we watched the orcas we spotted two humpbacks in the area as well. I managed to get a fluke photo of one of the humpbacks.
We spent some time in Icy Strait and saw many Dall's porpoise. They seemed to be in every direction that we looked.
We spent some time in our boat looking for whales and found three near North Pass. The first whale was about 1/2 mile north of the pass. It was traveling alone. We did not spend much time watching it. As we entered North Pass, I immediately spotted what looked like a mom and calf pair. The calf was small and behaving like a young one. It stayed very close to its mom. It would surface a bit before she would, but would quickly rejoin her mom once she surfaced. I had heard that Sasha #1879 was spotted in Maui with a calf, so I assumed it was the pair. After a few dives, I was finally able to identify the mom. It turned out to be Flame #1538. I was shocked, as Flame had a calf with her last summer. I reached out to a few people, and the thought was perhaps she was still with her calf, Bunsen, from last year. The last few times I saw Flame last summer, Bunsen was nowhere to be found. I also saw Flame on December 24, 2019, and Bunsen was not with her. It did not make sense to me that she would be with Bunsen now. I also have never seen Flame associating with other whales. She might be in the same general area as other whales, but she is always off on her own. I have always felt she is a loner.
After posting a photo of her on Facebook, someone mentioned that she had been spotted in Maui this past winter with a new calf! It is a bit unusual for humpbacks to have a calf every year. Generally it is every two to three years. I hope to see them again soon. It would be neat to confirm that it is indeed a new calf.
We spent some time in our boat and saw two humpbacks near the southern end of Shelter Island in Saginaw Channel. One of the whales turned out to be #2070, aka Barnacles. I was unable to get photos of the second whale.
We spent some time in our boat looking for whales. I was hoping we would be able to go see if there were any whales in Saginaw Channel near Shelter Island, but the water conditions were too poor so we stuck close to Auke Bay. However, we did find #1538 (Flame) near the west side of Coghlan Island. We also found #1671 (Twin Peaks) near the east side of Spuhn Island close to Fritz Cove. Twin Peaks was traveling with a small juvenile (unable to get a fluke photo).
We went back out in our boat to see if the humpbacks were still near Shelter Island. As we neared the southern tip of Shelter Island, we spotted a small pod of orcas. The water was very rough, visibility was low, and the orcas were very elusive. There appeared to be three orcas; a mom and calf pair and another female or juvenile male. Due to the conditions we only saw them surface three times. The last time we saw them they were moving very quickly. One porpoised out of the water a couple of times. I believe they were in the process of hunting something.
We left the area and entered Saginaw Channel where we eventually spotted six humpbacks. The visibility was too low to see very far. We were unable to get many photos.
We spent some time on our boat and were shocked to see thirteen humpbacks. Two of the whales were off on their own, while eleven were traveling together. They were swimming right next to each other and diving together. It reminded me very much of bubble feeding behavior. I was able to get several fluke photos and determined that these whales are not our bubble feeders. They were our "regulars." We have seen many of these whales on multiple occasions. There was at least one of our summer calves in the group . We watched it play with kelp at the surface of the water. One of the whales had clearly survived an orca attack. The right side of its fluke was partially missing and was covered in rake marks (scarring from the teeth of orcas). I believe this whale was young. It looked small compared to the rest of the whales. It will be interesting to see if these whales are still in the area the next time we head out on our boat.
We spent a few hours in our boat and spotted a pod of orcas in Lynn Canal north of Berners Bay. The pod was spread out over a large area. They were moving fairly quickly making it difficult to get photos of individual whales. I believe this may have been AG pod (Alaska resident orcas). I have submitted photos to Happywhale.com for confirmation and am waiting to hear back from them.
**Happywhale.com has confirmed that this is AG pod.**
We also spotted two humpbacks while we were out. One was near the entrance of Berners Bay and the other was near the north end of Shelter Island. We did not have enough time to stop and get photos of the humpbacks.
Long distant shot taken from shore. The whale was swimming south toward the backside of Douglas Island.
We spent some time in our boat after having not been on the water for well over a month. I was anxious to see if there were any whales still in the area. Unfortunately the water was very choppy and we were unable to go very far. However, we did see six humpbacks while we were out. I was able to identify four of them. Three of them appeared to be together. I was able to identify them as #1447, aka Juneauite and #2006, aka Magma. Magma has a calf this year. The third whale was a calf so I am assuming it was Magma's calf. Last year on October 2, 2018, we encountered Magma and Juneauite as they logged very closely together at the surface of the water. They seemed to be hanging out with one another much like this year's encounter. It is amazing to me that they are able to find each other. I cannot help but wonder if they are friends (if that is possible). I identified the fourth whale as #1879, aka Sasha. She was off on her own. The other two whales were off in the distance closer to Point Retreat. The water was too choppy to identify them.