Subject: Orca: Local neighborhood whales (fwd)

Michael Williamson (
Mon, 7 Apr 1997 07:44:45 -0400 (EDT)

Below is a write-up of an encounter with orcas which I am sending out to
people who I think would like to see it. It is a report of an encounter to
gather data for the Center for Whale Research, in Washington, USA.

April 6 was a like a summer day except there was nobody else out there.
About 9 am, after my computer told me that daylight savings time had ended,
we were driving into town for breakfast when I saw a mom and calf cruising
at a good speed going north. We pulled off and took a look and saw some
more, about five altogether, and came back to the Center.  It was obviously
a boat day. We took the inflatable and headed south. By that time the ones
that had come by the Center had turned back south. We found them about four
miles down the coast at almost noon, and by then they had already turned
again and headed north. It was about three hours from then until we finally
saw all 21 J pod whales, and by then they had turned back south again, and
we left them a little after 3 pm right about where we first found them. 

They were in little clumps, spread out over probably five or six miles,
still in acoustic range of each other of course, moving at all times, and
all of them moving the same direction at any one time. Furthest north when
we got there was J19, an 18 year old female with no kids, then J16, 25 years
old, who barely missed being captured during the ten years of captures that
ended when she was one year old. J16's two kids, J26, six years old, and
J33, one year old, were almost a mile behind her, side by side. We wondered
if J19 was getting ready to have a kid by watching and helping J16 with her
two. Then was J11, with her two kids trailing by a half mile at first, then
they caught up with her and they all three started porpoising like crazy,
flying half out of the water with every blow, at full speed for about ten
minutes. Soon along came J8, greatgrandma to J11's two kids, with her
characteristic wheeze when she blows.

Pretty soon it was 23 year old J14 with her two year old, J30, and about a
mile behind them was J30's greatgrandma, J2, known as Granny, estimated to
be over 80 years old. Maybe a mile behind was J20, 15 years old, with her
yearling. J20 stopped and logged still on the water for a few minutes while
the baby apparently drank a little milk and flopped around her mom. About a
half hour later we came across J20's mom, J10, with J18, her 19 year old,
now an adult male, and his 12 year old sister J22. J10 was just barely too
old to be captured in the sixties and seventies. Now she's a grandma. Then
20 year old J17 came by, followed by her mom, J5, about 60, and then a
little later J17's four year old young one, J28. J17 had turned around at
this point and started doing tight circles on the surface, probably chasing
fish. Pretty soon J28 came over and they teamed up for a few passes, then
moved off. Finally we saw the two older males, J1 and J6, both in their mid
forties, off on the horizon, so we went over and found them about a mile
apart, and eventually got pictures. We got passable ID photos of all 21 of
them, some of which we hadn't seen since October. No new babies and nobody
missing, and all of them except possibly J5 looking fat and energetic. She
had a slight dimple behind her blowhole, but maybe she always has. Some sick
whales have shown a depressed area behind the blowhole that indicates a loss
of blubber, so we watch for that. It was a great day. K and L pods are
expected back in June.

These are Lolita's relatives. She knows their language, because she spoke it
for the first six years of her life. She's missed out on a lot. But I digress.


Howard Garrett
Tokitae Foundation
1357 Smuggler's Cove Road
Friday Harbor WA 98250
Ph: 360-378-8654
Fx: 360-378-5954

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