I know, I have already given my top marine mammal moments, but after some discussion I was granted permission to give more details about one of my favorite encounters, and one that I didn’t even mention in my earlier blog because I was unsure about posting it.

10/03/2010 K21

I briefly mentioned our encounter with K21, Cappuccino, making the S10 call by our hydrophone before, but here I will give you a few more details.

We had been following the whales from East Point, and had almost reached Turn Point. We had been having trouble all day keeping up with the whales because we can only go 2.5 knots through the water so we don’t get very much flow noise on our hydrophones while recording, so we were hanging out with the stragglers of the group which happened to be K21. He was on our port side for quite awhile at about 9 o’clock, when he very abruptly turned 90o towards us.

Look closely, you can see him underwater!

Catching a breath as he headed for us

As he got closer Todd killed the engine and he sure made a B-line for us. He swam right up to our stern, where our first hydrophone was at the time, stopped, made a vocalization, and went on his way. I like to think he was telling us hello or actually trying to communicate with us since his call was so directed to the hydrophone. He was so close that we could see him swimming underwater!

Since he was so close and gave a call at the right moment we got an awesome recording of it. His call is classified as an S10 call, but he combined two of them to make an extra long call. It came out so beautifully on the spectrogram because he was so close, the background noise couldn’t really be detected.

The spectrogram of the S10 call from K21

Here you can listen! —> S10

9/16/2010  J28 and her calf, J46

Finally, I have saved the best for last. This special encounter happened on our most bio-diverse day and is still the most vivid memory I have with the whales.

There we were aboard the Gato Verde collecting some great data for our research projects, most of the afternoon we had been with members of J-pod. Of course we thought just being around the whales was cool in itself, which it is, but we were in for a special treat. J28, Polaris. and her calf J46, Star, had been trailing us for a while, but they were getting some speed and catching up to us on our starboard side. They were probably about 100-150 meters away milling around, and we were all stood on the deck just staring at them. J46 did a couple tail slaps and gave Mama some kisses, it was just too cute.


All of a sudden they both directed their travel towards us, Todd killed the engine and we all observed with excitement.

J28 (left) and J46 (right) swimming towards us

As they approached the boat together, J46 sped up and pulled away from his mama as if she was curious about us. I was standing right on the edge staring into the water as J46 came up to us, turned over on her side, basically gave the boat a hug with her peck fins, and opened her mouth as if she was smiling at us. I even made eye contact with her! As weird as it may sound, I felt like we made a connection of some kind during that moment. We were also able to see his teeth when he smiled at us. I mean, she was RIGHT THERE!


J28 followed behind her, and they both swam off behind us. All this happened in about a matter of two to three minutes, and it all seemed so unreal! Everyone on the boat was so excited, even Todd said that had never happened to him before.

Just to clarify, during all of our time with the whales we follow the Washington State Law and the Be Whale Wise guidelines, but sometimes the whales can surprise us by being curious.

1 Comment

  1. Kathryn

    October 26th, 2010 at 06:42

    Wow, that picture of J46 is INCREDIBLE!! I’m so happy you guys had such special encounters with the Southern Residents.

    (Spring 2010 alum)

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