Spatio-temporal changes in beluga whale, Delphinapterus leucas, distribution: results from aerial surveys (1977-2014), opportunistic sightings (1975-2014), and satellite tagging (1999-2003) in Cook Inlet, Alaska.
November 22, 1977:
Transcriber's note: This survey included two maps with different handwriting and no field notes. The observer was not identified on the first map but the handwriting appeared to be Don Calkins based on other maps/field notes. The first map, which only shows the lower inlet south of East and West Foreland, was labeled:
"Nov 22, 1977 Locations of observations of 42 Belukha whales in Lower Cook Inlet 8:30-1500 AST [none obs. in U.C.I.]."
This map shows 10 sightings (41 belugas total--not 42 as written in the map label). Locations are summarized in the table below. Although there is mention of no sightings in upper Cook Inlet in the map label, the map did not show this part of the inlet.
Location Group size Redoubt Bay, between West 1, 2 Foreland and Drift River Harriet Point 1 Chisik Island, NE tip 1 Between Tuxedni and Oil bays 2 Between Kasilof River and 1 Anchor Point Between Kenai River and East 18 (2 calves), 4 (1 Foreland calf), 1, 10
A composite map (the second map mentioned above) shows the entire inlet, the trackline and sightings, with handwriting that appears to be Nancy Murray (based on other maps/field notes). This map identifies Don Calkins as the observer: "11/22/77: Cook Inlet Aerial Survey: Don Calkins"
January 11, 1978:
Transcriber's note: This survey included two maps and field notes. The original survey map and field notes do not identify the observer but the handwriting appeared to be Don Calkins. The map is labeled:
"Belukha Survey Jan. 11, 1978, ice edge---, outbound, inbound, number of belukhas sighted 92, total sighted 92."
This map shows three sightings (92 belugas total = 12+50+30) in open water south of Kasilof River (recreated here). Ice edge is also hand drawn on the map. The field notes stated:
"Belukha survey Jan. 11, 1978
All belukhas sighted were probably within one large pod. They were within 1 to 2 Km of each other although the three different numbers shown are actually 3 different locations. Many gray animals were sighted in all three groups. All animals sighted were headed in a northerly direction. No belukhas were sighted in any other location survey of the inlet."
A composite map showing the entire inlet, recreating the trackline, ice edge, and sightings, was also included with handwriting that appeared to be Nancy Murray. This map identifies Don Calkins as the observer: "1/11/78: Cook Inlet Belukha Aerial Survey: Don Calkins"
March 1, 1978:
Transcriber's note: This survey included three maps and field notes. The original survey maps and field notes do not identify the observer but the handwriting appeared to be Don Calkins. Maps are labeled:
"Belukha Survey Cook Inlet 3/1/78 Upper Inlet No Belukhas sighted north of east and west foreland" and "Belukha Survey 3/1/78 continued from upper inlet (no Belukhas sighted north of east and west foreland)"
The lower inlet map shows 5 sightings (43 belugas total = 1 (adult) + 6 (adults/juveniles) + 20 + 9 (adults/juveniles) + 7 (adults)). The field notes stated:
"Belukha survey 3/1/78--departed Anch. 1:20 P. Some ice in upper inlet. Lots of open water--appeared to be sufficient open water for belukhas none sighted north of East and West forelands. 36 total sighted in Kalgin Island, Kenai area, 7 sighted just off Chisik Island. All belukhas sighted were in or near water <10 fm weather clear some breeze from N to NE at probably 10-15 kts by late afternoon--breeze, incoming tide plus sun glare made conditions fair. Survey completed at 5 mi intervals from Anchorage to Anchor Point and Slope Mt."
A composite map showing the entire inlet, recreating the trackline and sightings (ice is not shown on any of the maps though it was described in the field notes), was also included with handwriting that appeared to be Nancy Murray. This map identifies Don Calkins as the observer: "3/1/78: Cook Inlet Belukha Aerial Survey: Don Calkins"
March 2, 1978:
Transcriber's note: This survey included two maps and field notes. The original survey map and field notes do not identify the observer but the handwriting appeared to be Don Calkins. Map is labeled: "Belukha Survey 3/2/78"
Field notes stated:
"Survey started at 8:50am from Homer. Weather clear and calm. Winds 15-20 kts between Kenai Pen. and Barren I. Seas to 3 ft. Calm in Kamishak Bay and calmed down to small chop in rest of inlet for rest of day. Total belukhas sighted 146. Many subadults (gray) as well as white adults. Most singles sighted were white adults. Most animals appeared to be in or very near shallow <10 m water. Group of 20 in Kachemak Bay was composed of 14 white, 6 grays. Group of eight (7+1) near Chisik I. outside Tuxedni Bay was 5 white 3 gray."
A composite map showing the entire inlet, recreating the trackline and sightings, was also included with handwriting that appears to be Nancy Murray. This map identifies Don Calkins as the observer: "3/2/78: Cook Inlet Belukha Aerial Survey: Don Calkins".
The following was on a separate sheet of paper:
"Karl, I had planned a pattern about the same as this. Transects approx. 5 mi. apart--flown at about 300-400 ft. alt. Nancy Murray will arr. in Homer at 9:35 am Apr. 8th on AAI. If you complete the survey before then she can go along on the beach surveys. Don Calkins"
Additional maps show a series of offshore transects with latitudes and longitudes noted at endpoints, crossing the mid-Inlet from the Forelands to Ninilchik then circling Kalgin Island and resuming coastal survey at West Foreland headed south with a spoke pattern of tracklines off Augustine Island. These appeared to be proposed tracklines.
April 7, 1978:
Transcriber's note: On 7, 9, and 10 April 1978, ADFG conducted three surveys in lower Cook Inlet. The 7 April survey did not include field notes and the handwriting on the two maps did not match Don Calkins or Nancy Murray--possibly the "Karl" referred to in the March 2,1978 note. Part of the text is cut off on the photocopy. One map shows the trackline flown in Kachemak Bay, the second shows where sea otters were seen. The maps are labeled:
"4/7/78 1400-1540 Belukha survey--helicopter, visibility very good east of Homer spit, fair west of spit, tide--high, stating to ebb. Belukhas sighted = 0.", and "Sea otter sightings 4/T/T8. Entire south shore of Kachemak Bay covered from Fox R. to Hesketh I. except Sadie Cove by skiff & much of it by helicopter."
This second map shows four sightings of sea otters (8 + 3 + 4 + 1 = 16 otters).
April 9, 1978:
Transcriber's note: Field notes were not provided for this survey which included five maps showing enlargements of portions of the western shoreline from Tuxedni Bay to Cape Douglas. The observer was not identified but the handwriting appeared to be Don Calkins. The first map shows trackline from Tuxedni Bay to Ursus Cove with sea otters in Tuxedni Bay (n = 1) and Chinitna Bay (n = 1) labeled: "Sea otters sighted on Belukha survey 4/9/T8. Vis--fair. Cloudy and choppy in AM, sunny and light breeze in PM." The second map shows trackline from Ursus Cove to Augustine Island with an otter in Ursus Cove: "Sea otters sighted on Belukha survey 4/9/78." The third map shows beluga sightings in Chinitna Bay and Iniskin Bay with trackline from Tuxedni Bay to Ursus Cove, simply identified as: "Survey 4/9/78." Only this map shows the composition of the beluga groups: Chinitna Bay (21 including 4 gray moving into the bay + an additional 4 gray juveniles in the bay), and Iniskin Bay (23-30 (total given as 27 + 2 gray)). The fourth map has no label and shows the spoke pattern surveyed in Kamishak Bay with 2 belugas seen near Akumwaruk Bay, and harbor seals (2 near Ruby Cove) and sea otter sightings along line headed from Augustine Island to Cape Douglas (4 sightings, 5 animals). The fifth map with Calkins handwriting shows the entire lower inlet and all beluga sightings (though the Akumwaruk Bay sighting is now where the offshore track heads to Augustine Island), labeled: "Belukha Survey 4/9/78."
A composite map showing both the April 7 and April 9 surveys included tracklines and the beluga group totals (with the Akumwaruk Bay sighting closer to the spot where the aircraft turned offshore to fly back to Augustine Island). Handwriting on this map appeared to be Nancy Murray and identifies Don Calkins as the observer:
"4/7/78: Cook Inlet Belukha Aerial Survey: Surveyor
Helo: Kachemak Bay Don Calkins
4/9/78: Kamishak to Tuxedni Bay: (name is cut off on the photocopy but appears to be Don Calkins) & N. Murray"
April 10, 1978:
Transcriber's note: Field notes were not provided for this survey which included a map of the middle inlet showing Kalgin Island. The map is labeled: "Belukha Survey 4/10/78" with handwriting that appeared to be Don Calkins. No composite map by Nancy Murray. The survey track headed north from Kenai to Nikiski, crossing the inlet to an exposed sandbar then crossing Kalgin Island to Harriet Point. The survey route followed Redoubt Bay shoreline to East Foreland going offshore to exposed mudflat then following the mud south to the southern tip of Kalgin Island. The route continued clockwise around Kalgin Island before crossing inlet and landing back in Kenai.
No sightings reported.
May 22, 1978:
Transcriber's note: Field notes were not provided for this survey which included a map labeled: "5/22/78: Cook Inlet Belukha Survey: D. Calkins, ADF&G & N. Murray." Handwriting appeared to be Nancy Murray. Map shows beluga groups off Beluga River (20 with 2-3 grey) and between Moose Point and East Foreland (7), and two large circles labeled "porpoise" one south of Tuxedni Bay, and the other south of Chinitna Bay.
June 18, 1978:
Transcriber's note: This survey included comprehensive field notes and a map labeled:
"6/18/78: Cook Inlet Belukha Survey: N. Murray & K. Bunch (pilot)", which included a legend showing beluga, harbor seal and harbor porpoise sightings. The field notes stated:
Cook Inlet Aerial Survey: Anchorage. Nancy
Ken Bunch met me in his Widgeon at the Air Taxi Terminal at Anchorage International Airport at 0915. We took off from Anchorage at 0930 under rainy, windy weather conditions. (Tide was low in the upper Inlet).
The survey route and marine mammal sightings are on the following page. At 1045 we encountered a "mother" with large grey subadult just west of the Susitna. At 1050 we encountered a group of ~20 white adults heading toward the mouth of the Susitna. At 1055 we sighted an adult and grey subadult and then another 9 adults. Then very near shore we saw 2 more adults. All of these whales were heading south.
At 1105 in Trading Bay we began sightings whales again. First there were 2 adults, then a group of 12 adults, then a large group of ~25 adults (this could have been considerably more), and then 5 adults. Again all of these whales were heading south.
At 1130 I sighted 2 adults just around the first turn up the Kenai River. (They appeared to be just milling around (feeding?)).
At 1155 about mid way between Clam Gulch and Ninilchik we saw a group of ~25 white adults heading south in the midst of the crab pot buoys.
On landing at Homer at 1225 for fuel, we discovered that the rear tire of the Widgeon had gone flat. While waiting for Ken to fix the tire and take on fuel, I talked with Jack at Homer Air who says that he's seen groups of ~15 belukhas around September and October at the head of Kachemak Bay.
We took off from homer at 1400. At 1435 I sighted a harbor seal off Augustine and another one at 1445. At about 1540 I saw 1 harbor porpoise swimming in a southerly direction just south of Chisik Island.
In future surveys when we fly south of Tuxedni in the bays, every effort should be made to get food aerial photos of any belukhas encountered. The water there seems ideal for this.
At 1605 I sighted a tightly packed group of 3 white adult belukhas just around the point into Redoubt Bay. These whales were heading south west toward shore.
We landed at Anchorage Airport at 1710 after seeing a minimum total of 109 belukhas.
After our initial poor weather conditions, from the Susitna River on we had good to excellent sighting conditions. Since we encountered few (only 2) grey subadults and have seen many more on previous occasions, I am puzzled by their absence. I almost fell out of Ken's plane trying to look for small calves--but I couldn't see a one. Are they not yet born or, if born, where in these waters are they hiding? The mystery remains."
July 19, 1978:
Transcriber's note: Two surveys were conducted by ADFG in July 1978. The 19 July survey included comprehensive field notes and a map labeled: "7/19/78: Cook Inlet Belukha Survey: N. Murray & K. Bunch (pilot)". The field notes stated:
Cook Inlet Aerial Survey: Nancy Murray, Ken Bunch, Merrill Field, Anchorage.
Ken and I took off in the widgeon at 0920 from Merrill Field in rainy, windy weather. Sighting conditions were not good in Turnagain Arm or the open waters of mid Cook Inlet. All other locations including bays and shorelines provided good to excellent sighting conditions. The flight path and locations and numbers of belukha groups seen are illustrated on the following page. Heavy rain and low clouds forced us to head toward Homer from just north of Tuxedni Bay. We were able to pick up this area in the afternoon.
The first group of belukhas was encountered off the Beluga River just south of two fishing boats. The whales were difficult to count since they were in scattered small groups heading in various directions. The group consisted of about 50-60 whales. There were several (8-10) very large white animals, and about 12 small grey animals about 1/4-1/3 the length of the larger white "females" they swam alongside. These small animals were very dark slate grey, darker than any juveniles I've seen so far. I can't help but think that these are recently born calves which have been born since the June 18th flight. This large group was probably feeding.
The next group of 42 whales seen in Trading Bay were definitely feeding. This group contained 10-15 small dark grey animals. All but 7 of these whales in this group were very close to shore. Being in very shallow water, several of the whales could be seen lying at the surface dipping forward as if to pick a fish off the bottom. Other whales made quick sprints, dove, and then slowed after returning to the surface. Either a portion of the whale or its "footprint" could be continually observed.
Four more groups of whales were observed in Redoubt Bay off the Big and Drift Rivers. From north to south these groups consisted of 6, 1, 18, and 1 animal respectively. All whales were white adults except for 4 small grey animals in the group of 18. Again the whales were close in to the shoreline with random directional headings and appeared to be feeding.
We landed at Homer at 1230 hours and took off from there after refueling at 1315 hours. I saw 3 harbor seals in the cove off the southwest corner of Augustine Island. We saw 3 bears along the shoreline of Iniskin Bay. No further belukhas were sighted.
The whales we sighted on this survey were in very similar areas to last month. I was surprised that we saw no whales off Kalgin Island or on the eastern shoreline where the red salmon are running now.
We saw a total of 118-128 belukhas on this survey."
July 24, 1978:
Transcriber's note: The 24 July survey did not include field notes and the handwriting on the map was difficult to read: "7/24/78 Belukha Skull & Information Flight: N. Murray & Bud L*geted** [last name illegible] (pilot) Note: No belukhas were sighted." The trackline ran from Kenai across the inlet to Tuxedni Bay then down the coast to Chinitna Bay before crossing land back to Tuxedni Bay then crossing the inlet back to Kenai--unable to decipher notes along the trackline.
August 14-18, 1978:
Transcriber's note: ADFG conducted multiple surveys in August, however, field notes were not included with the five maps. Each map was labeled with the date of the survey and the following: "Cook Inlet Belukha Aerial Survey: Surveyor: Helo, N. Murray & R. Dietrickson." Some results were reported in Murray (1979) [text footnote 6] and Murray and Fay (1979) [text footnote 7] and are summarized after the map descriptions below.
The map on 14 August shows the aircraft departing Homer and surveying the north shore of Kachemak Bay ("20 HS" and "50 HS" 20 + 50 harbor seals near Fox River) then the south shore before heading offshore where the line ends. A second line, possibly a second flight after landing somewhere offshore (labeled "II") heads back toward Kachemak Bay turning north to follow the shore to Kasilof River (there is a note near Anchor Pt. that is hard to decipher --possibly "carcass"?). At Kasilof River, the aircraft crossed the inlet to Kalgin Island, following the shoreline south to the southern tip then crossing the inlet back to the eastern shoreline between Ninilchik and Anchor Pt. The aircraft continued across land to Kachemak Bay, crossing the bay to Sadie Cove finally ending the survey off Homer Spit.
The map on 15 August shows the trackline beginning offshore of Kachemak Bay (labeled "I") headed north to Anchor Pt. following the shoreline to Kasilof River where a circle indicated "Large # 130+" (see Table below). The aircraft continued north, circling the Kenai River, passing East Foreland, Pt. Possession, Chickaloon River ("10 HS" 10 harbor seals), surveying Turnagain Arm to Bird Pt., then following the north shoreline before landing in Anchorage. The second flight (labeled "II") covered Knik Arm to the bridge, then followed the west shoreline to the Susitna River, surveying up the river to the power lines ("75 HS" 75 harbor seals in the river) before returning along the west shoreline to Anchorage.
The map on 16 August shows the aircraft departing Anchorage (labeled "I") following the west shoreline south to Harriet Pt. The track crossed the inlet to the south tip of Kalgin Island, followed the shoreline to the north tip then crossed the inlet to land in Kenai. The second flight (labeled "II") headed south along the eastern shoreline, encountering a large number of belugas off the Kasilof River (see Table below). The track continued south into Kachemak Bay, turning offshore (6 harbor seals noted just before the track went offshore) near Homer. The track ends in the middle of the Bay.
The map on 17 August shows the track beginning in the middle of the inlet heading toward Cape Douglas. At the cape, the aircraft began surveying the shoreline heading into Kamishak Bay. The track continued north to Tuxedni Bay. Belugas were seen in Iniskin Bay (3 whales). The aircraft headed offshore to begin a spoke pattern off Augustine Island, circling the island ("100s HS" 100s of harbor seals on south shore + "2 HS" on north shore) then heading to shore at Bruin Bay then surveying the shoreline north to Ursus Cove ("25 HS" 25 harbor seals south of Ursus Cove) before heading back offshore where the trackline ends.
The map on 18 August shows the trackline beginning offshore (labeled "I"), northeast of Augustine Island. The aircraft entered Tuxedni Bay, encountering 30 belugas. The shoreline survey continued north to Harriet Pt. crossed the inlet to the south tip of Kalgin Island then crossed the inlet landing in Kenai. The second flight departed Kenai heading offshore for a series of north-south tracks returning to the Kenai River before heading south along the eastern shoreline. Belugas ("130+") were encountered south of Kasilof River. The aircraft cut across land near Ninilchik before terminating the flight mid Kachemak Bay (illegible writing at the termination point).
In the first section of a letter dated 18 December 1979, Nancy Murray stated:
"Don and Dennis--
Here are the remaining data you need to complete the OCS forms. If you have any further questions just give me a call or send the forms up here.
Date Total # of belukhas Location 14 Aug 78 0 15 Aug 78 142 Kasilof River [right arrow] offshore 16 Aug 78 203 Offshore from Kalifonsky Beach 17 Aug 78 3 Mouth of Iniskin Bay 18 Aug 78 30 Tuxedni Bay " 130 South of Cape Kasilof (offshore) Note: you should have write-ups that accompany the maps."
In Murray (1979) [text footnote 6], Nancy Murray noted:
"In mid-August a group of at least 150 whales was observed on three different days in the waters between Kalgin Island and the Kasilof River. The whales remained in this general area over at least a 4 day period. The whales were all aligned on the same directional heading with lead animals observed to break off from the front of the group. This behavior did not result in the remainder of the group changing its heading. Consequently, this type of large group formation most likely represents a feeding aggregation, although no feeding behavior (such as darting after a fish, etc.) or food source was directly observed" (p. 195).
In Murray and Fay (1979) [text footnote 7]:
"Visual counts on three consecutive days of the main concentration of animals in the central part of the Inlet in August 1978 yielded approximately 150 individuals at each count. Since these were made from a moving aircraft, and since the animals were in turbid water where they could be seen only when surfacing, we consider that there is a high probability that the actual number present was at least three times the number counted on each occasion" (p. 2).
October 15, 1978:
Transcriber's note: Field notes were not included with the map for this survey. The map was labeled: "10/15/78 Cook Inlet Belukha Survey. N. Murray & K. Bunch (pilot)." The trackline for the first flight (labeled "I") departed Anchorage crossing Chickaloon Bay to the river turning into Turnagain Arm. After surveying to Bird Pt. the aircraft flew the northern shoreline past Anchorage and entered Knik Arm. Surveying to the bridge, the aircraft left Knik Arm following the shoreline south to Big River before crossing the inlet and resuming the coastal survey north to Pt. Possession. The track continued from Pt. Possession to the south tip of Fire Island, following the east coast of the island before landing in Anchorage (illegible notes are written at the end point--possibly suggesting departing for Homer?). The second flight (labeled "II") begins in Homer, crossing the inlet to Augustine Island, circling the island then heading to the western shoreline at Ursus Cove. The coastal survey continued north to Drift River, crossed the inlet to circle Kalgin Island then continued across the inlet entering the Kenai River. The survey continued south along the shoreline then entered Kachemak Bay, surveying the south and north shoreline to Fox River before landing in Homer. Belugas were encountered in Iliamna Bay (12), Dry Bay (5), Tuxedni Bay (50), Kenai River (4), north of Kasilof River (2), and near Ninilchik (2).
February 24, 1979:
Transcriber's note: ADFG conducted two surveys in February 1979. Field notes were not included with the map for the 24 February survey. The map was labeled: "2/24/79 Cook Inlet Belukha Survey. N. Murray, K. Bunch, S. Starr, C. Hamilton." The flight departed Anchorage headed toward Pt. Possession surveying what appears to be open water between iced areas south to Ninilchik before turning and flying to Kalgin Island. The track followed the western shoreline of the island to the north tip, crossing the inlet to Kasilof River where a series of east-west tracks were flown south over open areas in the ice until reaching Ninilchik. At Ninilchik, the aircraft crossed the inlet and entered Tuxedni Bay, following the coastline south to Bruin Bay before heading offshore to the ice edge and following open water north before landing in Kenai (see recreated figure for trackline (black line); no beluga sightings and ice noted throughout much of the inlet).
February 25, 1979:
Transcriber's note: Similar to the 24 February survey, field notes were not included with the map for the 25 February survey. The map was labeled: "2/25/79 Cook Inlet Belukha Survey. N. Murray, K. Bunch, S. Starr, C. Hamilton." The aircraft departed Kenai headed south along the ice edge entering Kachemak Bay and surveying the bay to Fox River. After exiting the bay, the aircraft headed across the inlet but encountered a snow storm. Turning north, the aircraft continued along an offshore track before landing in Anchorage (see recreated figure for trackline (gray line); no beluga sightings and ice and snow storms noted with a reference saying "see conditions on 2/24/79").
March 15, 1979:
Transcriber's note: ADFG conducted a two-day survey on 15-16 March 1979. Field notes were not included with the map for the 15 March survey. The map was labeled: "3/15/19 Cook Inlet Belukha Survey. N. Murray, K. Bunch, L. Banner?' (last name illegible on photocopy). On the first flight, the aircraft departed Anchorage heading south around Fire Island then crossed to the Little Susitna River. The track continued south along the shoreline to Iliamna Bay then crossed the inlet to Kachemak Bay, surveying the south and north shores to Fox Island before landing in Homer. The second flight departed Homer crossing the bay to Sadie Cove following the shoreline south to English Bay then crossed the inlet to Augustine Island. From Augustine Island the track followed the ice edge to Cape Douglas then turned north to survey along the ice edge into Kamishak Bay to Ursus Cove. The flight path again turned offshore to Augustine Island, circling the west shore before heading south to Cape Douglas. At Cape Douglas, the aircraft flew offshore to the Barren Islands (encountering an "SL" (sea lion?)) before turning south toward Shuyak Island. The aircraft again turned north heading to Cape Douglas, then resumed the shoreline survey south into Shelikof Strait (encountering "S.Otters" (sea otters) north of Kiukpalik Island and "SO+HS" (sea otter + harbor seal or maybe 50+ harbor seals?) in Hallo Bay. The aircraft crossed the strait and landed in Kodiak (see recreated figure for trackline (gray line); no beluga sightings and ice noted in areas, no key provided for sightings).
March 16, 1979:
Transcriber's note: Similar to the 15 March survey, field notes were not included with the map for the 16 March survey. The map was labeled: "3/16/19 Cook Inlet Belukha Survey. N. Murray, K. Bunch, L. Banner?' (last name illegible on photocopy). On the first flight, the aircraft departed Kodiak crossing Shelikof Strait to Kiukpalik Island following the shoreline a short distance north before heading offshore then heading north to Anchor Point. At Anchor Point, the aircraft began a series of east-west tracks across the inlet, ending near Ninilchik then heading to Kenai to land. Belugas (11) were encountered on the trackline south of Tuxedni Bay. The second flight departed Kenai and resumed the east-west tracks just south of Kalgin Island. East-west tracks ended at Pt. Possession and the aircraft landed in Anchorage (see recreated figure for trackline (black line) and beluga sighting, ice noted in area).
March 27-29, 1979:
Transcriber's note: ADFG conducted a threeday survey 27-29 March that included areas outside of Cook Inlet. The only record of this survey was provided in the third section of a letter dated 18 December 1979 and addressed to "Don and Dennis" (see August 14-18, 1978 section above), in this letter Nancy Murray stated:
"The survey from 27 March 79 to 29 March 79, where no belukhas were seen, covered the following areas:
27 March: Anchorage [right arrow] Cape Elizabeth (eastern mouth of Cook Inlet) Cape Elizabeth [right arrow] Port Dick Port Dick [right arrow] Kodiak 28 March: Kodiak [right arrow] Shelikof Strait Shelikof Strait [right arrow] Kujulik Bay Kujulik Bay [right arrow] Port Heiden Port Heiden [right arrow] Chignik Bay Chignik Bay [right arrow] Cape Douglas (all shoreline) Cape Douglas [right arrow] Homer Homer [right arrow] Port Dick Port Dick [right arrow] Seward (all shoreline) 29 March : Seward [right arrow] Cape Cleare Cape Cleare [right arrow] Cordova Cordova [right arrow] Valdez Valdez [right arrow] Knight Island Knight Island [right arrow] Port Nellie Juan Port Nellie Juan [right arrow] Whittier Pass Whittier Pass [right arrow] Turnagain Arm Turnagain Arm [right arrow] Anchorage"
We were unable to map this comprehensive survey as this was the only information provided.
June 18, 1979:
Transcriber's note: This survey included comprehensive field notes and a map labeled: "6/18/79: Cook Inlet Belukha Aerial Survey: N. Murray, K. Bunch (pilot), W. Keefer". The field notes stated:
"6/18/79 Cook Inlet Aerial Survey: Nancy Murray, Ken Bunch (pilot), W. Keefer: Wigeon Weather conditions: clear, sunny, 60[degrees]F, <10 knot winds, seas calm.
EXCELLENT SIGHTING CONDITIONS.
0745 Take off from Anchorage. 0800 5 white adult belukhas are west of Fire Island heading northeast. Groups of 3, 1, and 1 are near mud flats west of Fire Island. 38 belukhas (including 2 grey juveniles) are heading south near mud flats about 2 miles off the Susitna (Wendy: WK#1, 3 photos). 35+ belukhas (including 5 grey juveniles) off the mouth of the Ivan River. 12 white adults off the mouth of the Theodore River. 6 " " " " " " " " " 5 " " " " " " " " " A group of 5 white adults + 3 grey juveniles plus several gulls are just north of Beluga River. Group of 10 adults, then a group of 7 adults & 1 juvenile, and a group of 6 white adults are off the Beluga River and just south of it. Note: All belukhas from the Ivan River to the Beluga River appeared to be feeding in the shallows. They were stirring up a lot of mud and were heading in "random" directions. 0835 Took black & white photos (NM Roll #1) of the Beluga River area. No belugas were up river due to low tide. 0845 7 belukhas are just north of Tyonek heading south. 0850 3 belukhas are near an oil rig (the fourth one down from the north). 6 belukhas are off the mouth of the McArthur River. Groups of 1, 1, 5, and 5 belukhas are in southern Trading Bay. 0905 In Redoubt Bay off the Drift River the following groups of belukhas were observed: 2 (adult & dark grey juvenile ~ % length of adult) 6 belukhas 1 " 4 " 1 " 4 " 8 (includes a few grey juv.: large) 1005 Landed at Kenai 1035 Take off from Kenai 1105 2 brown bears (an adult with a juvenile) are on shoe in eastern Tuxedni Bay. 1115 One harbor seal swimming in the water just off Chisik Island in Tuxedni Bay. 1145 There are about 40 harbor seals on a rock outside the mouth of Iniskin Bay. 1215 Land on a lake just south of Ursus Cove for a lunch break. 1245 Take off from lake. One sea otter is swimming in the water at the entrance to Bruin Bay. Two harbor seals are hauled out in Bruin Bay. 1300 200-250 harbor seals are hauled out on a beach (same place as Aug. 1978 Surveyor cruise) on NE side of Augustine Island. 1355 Landed at Homer. 1430 Take off from Homer. 1525 One white adult belukha is heading north about 4-5 miles southeast of the mouth of the Susitna River. 1600 Landed at Anchorage. Note: No calves were observed during this survey. Total of 193 belukhas (includes 12+ juveniles)."
June 22, 1979:
Transcriber's note: This survey included comprehensive field notes and a map labeled:
"6/22/79: Flight to Beluga River Field Camp from Lake Hood, Anchorage: N. Murray, W. Keefer, M.H. Cunningham, Dwaine (pilot): Ketchum Cessna 205". The field notes stated:
"6/22/79 Field Camp Flight: Anchorage to Beluga River: Ketchum Air Service 205: Nancy Murray, W. Keefer, M.J. Cunnningham, pilot (Dwaine).
Weather conditions: clear, sunny, ~55[degrees]F, <1 knot winds, seas calm.
EXCELLENT SIGHTING CONDITIONS.
0600-0630 After takeoff from Lake Hood, we flew along the shoreline from Anchorage to the Beluga River. We sighted the following belukhas at the following locations:
Little Susitna: 10 belukhas Ivan River: 6 " Theodore River: 12 "
Most of these whales were white adults. It was difficult to get an accurate count or age class info. ON ONLY ONE PASS."
In the second section of a letter dated 18 December 1979 and addressed to "Don and Dennis" (see August 14-18, 1978 section above), Nancy Murray stated:
"For the Beluga river data on the next page, counts are given for each of the two high tides. I don't think the whales from each high tide should be totalled to give a single number for each date, since whales which entered on a particular high tide could conceivably contain some or all of the numbers from the other high tide. The same problem, of course, exists throughout the study. Please feel free to handle this any way you see fit.
The pluses after the count indicate that a definite determination was not possible and the minimum number of whales is given. There could have been more" (at this point the photocopy cuts off on page 1 of the letter, the following table was on page 2).
Belukhas observed in the Beluga River from 22 June 79 to 12 July 79:
Date Time Period Total # whales 22 June 1504 1 26 June 1904 1 27 June 0718-0951 22 " 1715-2145 35 28 June 0510-0810 18 " 1815-2006 13 29 June 1930-2245 12+ 30 June 0629-0850 28+ 1 July 0717-0847 9 " 2034-2345 14 2 July 1040 1 " 2200-0015 5 3 July 0955-1250 15 " 2150 1 4 July 1145 1 5 July 1220-1223 2 7 July 0037-0115 2 " 0400 1 " 1410-1543 8 8 July 0115-0330 8 " 1502 2 9 July 0430 1+ " 1744 8 (offshore) 10 July 0300 1 " 0520-0740 5+ " 0710-1900 7 11 July 0350-0731 10 + 5 offshore " 1709-1927 5+ 12 July 0453-0626 3
July 17, 1979:
Transcriber's note: This survey included comprehensive field notes and a map labeled:
"7/17/79: Cook Inlet Belukha Aerial Survey: N. Murray, W. Keefer, K. Bunch (pilot)". The field notes stated:
"7/17/79 Cook Inlet Aerial Survey: N. Murray, W.
Keefer, K. Bunch (pilot): Wigeon.
Weather conditions: overcast [right arrow] sunny. Temperature ~70[degrees]F. Wind <5 knots. Sea state is calm.
EXCELLENT SIGHTING CONDITIONS.
0745 Take off from Anchorage International. 0840 East of the Susitna, we sighted the following groups of belukhas near mud flats: 7 white adults 2 medium grey juveniles 4 adults + 3 juveniles stirring up mud. 0847 Off the mouth of the Susitna near the mud flats are 13 adult belukhas, 3 light-medium grey juveniles and 1 dark grey juvenile. 0852 11 harbor seals are hauled out on the exposed mud flats about % mile up the Big Susitna River. 0900 Beluga River. Our tower still stands on its original position, but the Hilton is gone Completely gone except for a "hitching" post. Apparently the whole shoreline under the cabin was swept away as well. Earl's cabin was moved about a mile inland near the pond and Mile's cabin was moved about % mile down river. Took lots of photos (NM #7). 0930 Off the mouth of the Big River there were 4 white adults and 2 medium grey juveniles. 0932 One adult belukha was sighted just south of the Big River. 0941 Off the mouth of the Drift River, I sighted a trio of 2 white adults and 1 medium grey juvenile (~1 or 2 years old) heading east in the following formation: (drawing of whales in echelon formation lead by 1 white adult) 0945 To the northwest of bell(?) to west of Kalgin Island is a scattered group of 5 white adults, 3 white adults + 1 grey juvenile. These whales appear to be feeding along the shoal. There is another groups of 2 white adults over near the shoreline. 1000 Off the north end of Kalgin Island was a group of 15 white adult belukhas + 2 grey juveniles. They were doing a lot of splashing and making vertical dives. 1009 Two white adults were sighted northeast of Kalgin Island. Note: Between Kalgin Island and Kenai, numerous salmon were seen jumping out of the water, primarily along shoal lines. 1020 Landed at Kenai. John at Arctic Aviation said that there have been very few fish so far this summer. The red salmon are about 3 weeks late coming in. He has seen belukhas coming in to the Kenai River over the past 2 months. He has seen belukhas north and southwest of Kalgin Island. 1105 Take off from Kenai. 1130 Two harbor seals diving in the water just south of Harriet Point. 1135 One harbor seal in water just north of Tuxedni Bay. 1147 One harbor seal swimming just west of Chisik Island in Tuxedni Bay. 1156 One harbor seal out from Snug Harbor Cannery on Chisik Island. 1220 A marine mammal carcus (sic.) (seal or porpoise?) is floating just under the surface. It is surrounded by a dense flock of gulls. It was located about a mile east of Chinitna Bay. 1225 To the north east of the carcus (sic.), we sighted a dense black ball of unknown composition (fish?) just below the surface surrounded by a flock of gulls. 1250 About 2 miles offshore west of Ninilchik, we sighted 4 minke whales. There was one lone whale, 2 diving side by side in unison, and 1 more lone whale. I took a few photos with my 55 mm lens (NM#7) of the pair. All four minkes were heading northwest. 1345 Landed at Kenai to remove the mosquitos from the windshield. Were hardly able to see out. 1420 Take off from Kenai. 1435 6+ white adult belukhas are between the oil dock off North Kenai and south of the East Forelands. They all had a long down time, indicating the possibility that they were feeding. 1439 There are 10 white adult belukhas and one grey juvenile just south of the East Forelands. All whales were heading south. One white adult is directly off the East Forelands heading south. 1455 About midway up the upper inlet out in open water, we sighted a group of 20 adult belukhas + 6 grey juveniles + 4 small calves. All whales were heading southwest. Two of the calves were very small dark animals swimming on the left side of the mother near the caudal peduncle. The other two calves were a bit larger and lighter in color and were swimming next to the midsection of the adult--one of these was on the left side, the position of the other is uncertain. I took several photos on NM#7 and all 20 frames of NM#8 (TRI-X). Wendy also took photos (WK#11, frames ~ 18-36). 1505 Two large scattered groups of belukhas, all heading north--northwest were sighted in the upper inlet about 3 to 10 miles south of Fire Island. The first group consisted of 16 white adults and 2 calves. The second group (further north) was composed of 26 white adults, 9 juveniles, and 2 calves. (37 total) I took a few photos of this last group (NM#9). 1530 Off the southern tip of Fire Island very close to shore were a group of feeding whales consisting of 19 white adults and 1 grey juvenile. 1540 Landed at Anchorage.
Total of 194 belukhas consisting of:
155 adults 31 juveniles 20% J:A ratio 8 calves 25% J+C:A ratio
Note: This is the best age class data that has been acquired to date."
August 21, 1979:
Transcriber's note: This survey included comprehensive field notes and a map (with key and beluga totals from 8/21/79 and 8/22/79) labeled: "8/21/79: Cook Inlet Belukha Aerial Survey: N. Murray & K. Bunch (pilot)". The field notes stated:
"8/21/79 Cook Inlet Belukha Aerial Survey: N. Murray & K. Bunch (pilot: wigeon).
Weather conditions: sunny, clear, 55-60[degrees]F, calm seas (<2 ft.); afternoon: 70[degrees]F, hazy in central inlet and low cloud cover in lower inlet.
0830 Take off from Anchorage International. Note: Hydraulic system warning buzzer and light came on and stayed on. 0850 Landed at Merrill Field. Note: Hydraulic system repaired by bleeding off excess nitrogen. 1120 Take off from Merrill Field to begin survey. 1145 32 white adult belukhas were sighted just south of the mouth of the Beluga River. The tide was very low. It was difficult to tell whether the animals were feeding. The majority were on a northerly heading. A second (but poorer) count of this group yielded 33 belukhas. 1202 8 white adults and 1 light grey juvenile belukha were sighted just north of the mouth of the McArthur River. These whales were making long duration dives and were oriented in a variety of directions. Most likely this group was feeding. 12 white adults and 3 grey juveniles were swimming in the shallow muddy areas just south of the mouth of the McArthur River. The whales moved back and forth between clear water where the animals could be seen a couple of feet below the surface to muddy water where sediment plumes were created by their movements. I took several photos, since I had not previously seen belukhas in a similar water situation before. 1224 3 white adult belukhas were sighted off the mouth of the Kustatan River. These whales dived and were not sighted again during the approximately 2 minutes of circling with the aircraft. 1226 30 adults (+? Lt. grey juveniles) and 1 calf were sighted off the Big River. Took photos #28-36 of this group. 1240 At the Drift River, 7 belukhas were sighted about 3/4 mile out from the mouth, 6 belukhas in the mouth of the river, and 1 belukha about % mile up the river. 1250 4 white adults and 1 calf were sighted in southern Redoubt Bay. 1303 Directly off Harriet Point, 45 white adults, 6 grey juveniles, and 5 calves were seen. The whales had a variety of headings and were diving deeply (or long duration) in a single spot indicative of feeding behavior. Within the larger group was a group of ~25 whales which included all the calves. While the adults and larger juveniles dived, the calves surfaced repeatedly together, surfacing very frequently. Three of the calves swam very close together and "wobbled" as they dived. These youngsters don't appear to be very coordinated yet. When I've seen calves moving in concert with a white adult, I have never noticed this "wobbling" movement. I took photos #1-12 on the next roll. 1325 When we arrived at the northern point of Chinitna Bay, there was a very heavy layer of low clouds. When we gained altitude, we could see that the layer completely covered Kamishak Bay. Therefore, we decided to cross over to the eastern shoreline of Cook Inlet to determine whether we could survey Kachemak Bay. Upon arrival there, we discovered that it was free of clouds (the only part of the lower Inlet that could be surveyed). 1345 At the northern part of the entrance to Kachemak Bay, Ken saw a whale dive. The flukes were dark colored and larger than those of a belukha. The flukes were curved, but he didn't think they were "scallop" like that of a humpback. The whale dived and did not return to the surface while we circled. 1445 5 white adult belukhas were in a widely scattered group southwest of the mouth of the Kasilof River. Since the tide was high, we flew the river (~1 mile up), but sighted no whales. 1505 Landed at Kenai to refuel. John at Arctic Aviation said that recently he has seen lots of belukhas (he estimates about 300-400) off the southern tip of Kalgin Island in the rip currents. 1540 Take off from Kenai. 1550 About 2 miles northeast of Kalgin Island we sighted a group of whales containing 36 white adults, 5 juveniles, and 6 calves. Two of these calves were swimming as a pair, surfacing very close to one another. 1605 In the bay just south of the northeast tip of Kalgin Island, we sighted a group of 9 adults, 9 juveniles, and 8 calves. I've never seen group composition so heavily skewed to immature animals. The general heading of the group was northerly. However, it appeared that some whales were making long duration dives, indicative of feeding. Since most whale groups observed today seem to be composed of adult whales diving for a long duration with young whales swimming at the surface, perhaps this group had a larger proportion of white adults than we observed. I took photos #14-27 on the second roll of this group. 1625 In the waters just south of the Forelands, we sighted 7 widely scattered groups of belukhas. These whales were north-northeast of the group sighted at 1550 which had been sighted again a few minutes ago. The count resulted in groups of 5, 2, 6, 2, 9, 26, and 9 belukhas. No breakdown of these groups into age classes was possible, since such wide scattering made even total counts very difficult. When the whales are scattered in a manner such as this, I begin to wonder if all of these whales are really one large group broken down into several "subgroups". 1630 The carcus (sic.) of a white adult belukha was floating belly up in the rafted debris of the rips, about midway between Kalgin Island and the Forelands. 1645 Just north of the East Forelands, a group of belukhas consisting of 7 adults, 1 juvenile, and 2 calves, was sighted. 1700 In the central part of the upper Inlet, east of Trading Bay, we sighted a group of belukhas composed of the following: 12 white adults, 3 juveniles, and 3 calves. One of the calves was swimming very close to the mother near her caudal peduncle. This calf was very small and dark, apparently recently born (maybe 1-2 weeks old). Most of the calves I've seen so far today are larger than this one, a bit lighter in color and were either swimming next to the "mother's" mid-section or in little groups together at the surface while the adults were making feeding dives. 1730 Flew by the Beluga River again, and this time the tide is high. No whales were in the river. However, a larger group of whales, than the one I saw this morning, was a little further out from the shoreline and heading in a southerly direction. Although some of these whales may be ones I counted this morning, since I have no way of knowing, I'm including this group as part of the census. The group was composed of 40 white whales, 4 juveniles, and 2 calves. I took photos #28-32 on the second roll of the river and the tower. 1800 Landed at Anchorage International Airport. Observation and survey ended.
Tom Shrader of the Homer Office, ADF&G, sighted a group of 97 belukhas in Bruin Bay. (Info. via Don Calkins, 8/28/79 phone call)." This sighting was included on the map and in the following table.
8/21/79 : Age Class and Census Data from Cook Inlet Belukha Aerial Survey Number of Belukhas Time Location Unid. Adults Juv. Calves Total (Ad & Ju) 1145 Beluga River: 32 32 low tide 1202 McArthur 8 1 9 R.: north " McArthur 12 3 15 R.: south 1224 Kustatan River 3 3 1226 Big River 30 1 31 1240 Drift R.: 7 7 offshore " " : mouth 6 6 " " : up river 1 1 1250 Lower Redoubt 4 1 5 Bay 1303 Harriet Pt. 45 6 5 56 1445 Kasilof River 5 5 1550 N. of Kalgin 36 5 6 47 Is. 1605 Kalgin Is.: 9 9 8 26 NE Bay 1625 N. Central 59+ 59+ Inlet 1645 E. Forelands 7 1 2 10 1700 Central Upper 12 3 3 18 Inlet 1730 Beluga River: 40 4 2 46 high tide Total 103 213 32 28 376 8/22/79 sighting Bruin Bay 97 97 Grand Total 473
Please note: Some tables or figures were omitted from this article.
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|Title Annotation:||p. 32-59|
|Author:||Shelden, Kim E.W.; Goetz, Kimberly T.; Rugh, David J.; Calkins, Donald G.; Mahoney, Barbara A.; Hobb|
|Publication:||Marine Fisheries Review|
|Date:||Mar 22, 2015|
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