At 9:19 am, our team received an Orcasound Lab email notification indicating Southern Resident killer whale calls on the Lime Kiln hydrophone. We rallied to the boat for our first field day of the year. After readying the boat, we motored out of Snug Harbor and west into Mitchelle Bay to start our first scans for whales. Not seeing any fins to the south, towards Lime Kiln, Giles radioed other researchers for information on the whales’ current location and learned that the whales were very spread out and hard to spot in the choppy water and fast-moving currents.

After motoring north about one-mile north-west of Kellett Bluff on Henry Island we scanned again and spotted a small group of whales in the distance reasonably close to Stuart Island. After determining the wind direction, we were able to position our vessel downwind, parallel and behind a group of four whales, J35, Tahlequah, and her two living sons, J47 “Notch,” J57 “Pheonix,” as well as J36 “Alki.” We were able to survey their path, searching non-invasively for any fecal samples they might have left behind.

Next, we had an opportunity to survey the water for samples behind J27 “Blackberry,” however, he was engaged in foraging behavior and repeatedly “gave us the slip” by circling back south. We continued north to Turn Point and surveyed behind another female we could not identify due to the distance and angle we were from her. After another hour, we left the whales, who were all maximally spread out in groups of twos and threes, mostly foraging and moving into increasingly choppy water to the north.

We had an excellent first encounter with whales and are looking forward to the 2023 field season!

Research Vessel

R/V Cheena


Southern Resident Killer Whales


J Pod

Research Activities

Fecal Samples Collection, Behavior Data, Body Condition Assesment