During the past few days, a special whale has shown up in the waters around our base camp in Johnstone Strait. The occurrence is special! Not just because the sperm whale returned this morning, but because of all the great effort made by several people to document this event. It started around 7 this morning when local researchers began a recording of the clicks off Robson Bight Ecological Reserve. An hour and a half later, the sounds were echoing to the CP hydrophone, so they are pretty sure the whale was westbound. Researchers headed out to find and confirm that it is a sperm whale. Orcalab monitored the hydrophones and cameras from Alert Bay. Researchers put a hydrophone in the water off CP and could hear clicks, but the sperm whale (who can dive from 30 – 45 minutes) proved elusive and no one could locate him. Researchers then decided to head east and made it to a familiar creek around noon. Still no luck but, in the meantime, another researcher (who was also on the lookout in case the whale went through the passes) spotted southbound orcas heading towards Weynton Pass and mentioned that there were calls on the Blackfish Sound hydrophone before the whales disappeared into the distance. Researchers turned back to the west. By 12 p.m., they were back off CP listening. At 12:36 p.m., we could see blows to the west on the CP camera and at 12:42 p.m., Jared texted that they had found both the orcas and the sperm whale off Blinkhorn.
During this, Elizabeth Zwamborn, who is studying whales in Nova Scotia, was offering helpful information about sperm whale behaviors and acoustics as the day unfolded. Around 1 p.m., the clicks became quite frequent and sometimes loud despite the distance. Researchers stayed with the sperm whale and got videos and pictures. Then at 12:48 p.m., he went off to identify most of the T137s who were continuing east. An hour later, leaving the orcas off Kaikash, researchers went back to the west to try to locate the sperm whale. As the clicks continued, they found him/her just before 2 p.m. At 2:18 p.m. the whale fluked off of the Wastell Islands. By 3 p.m., the sperm whale was headed east mid-strait off Hanson Island. The clicks continued and so researchers asked to be informed when the clicks stopped for 3+ minutes when he might expect the whale to surface again. Right on cue, the sperm whale surfaced at 3:27 p.m. We took a screen recording of the blows (which you can see here) until the whale fluked and dove out of sight. We have not seen him/her again but there is some daylight left. It was an intense but satisfying day (and maybe not over yet!)
Day Two in the special visit from a sperm whale!
After the prior day’s confirmation of a sperm whale traveling in the waters of Johnstone Strait, I knew that folks would find some way of honoring this event. The sperm whale traveled in the core area we kayak within during the summer. As other with whales we have observed over the many summers, this sperm whale traveled the usual route that most whales travel during the summers. It was only a day that this whale has been sighted, but it is the first whale to enter the waters of the North Island in a long time.
Here is today’s Sperm Whale! Distant (you have to really look) but wonderfully there. This whale has been named “Yukusam” on a researcher’s suggestion and agreed upon by local First Nations folk. Yukusam was seen by researchers traveling off Hanson Island and as Hanson Island is known to the local First Nations as Yukusam, the name seemed appropriate to honor both the whale and this location. He is such a special visitor to the area. Yukusam has not left the area after almost a week and counting, and fortunately the OrcaLab remote hydrophones are very helpful to understand his presence and even location. But as Yukusam likes to make long dives, finding him on the remote cameras is really difficult but not impossible. Today was proof. We were able to alert researchers so that they could continue observing Yukusam more closely. And by watching the Explore.org cameras @ https://explore.org/livecams and listening to www.orca-live.net everyone else (you!) can follow our collective efforts!
Are you interested in whale spotting or other outdoor adventures this summer? Get in touch with the Discovery Expeditions team to learn more about whale watching opportunities, kayak vacations, and more in Johnstone Strait!