This post is dedicated to Tokitae who was abducted from the waters of Penn Cove in Puget Sound for almost 46 years. If you’ve seen Blackfish the movie you have some insight to her story. She has been living at Miami Seaquarium all these decades and for most of them alone after her cell mate Hugo died after he repeatedly slammed his head against the concrete wall.
Tomorrow is a very special day for Tokitae (oh, you may know her as Lolita, the name they gave her in Miami). Tomorrow a ruling takes affect changing her status to an endangered species like the members of her family that are free in Puget Sound (their dwindling numbers are due to the capture of so many in the 70s). While this doesn’t change her captive status (yet), it is a move in the right direction as there is a plan in place to move Tokitae to a sea pen in the waters of the San Juan Islands.
See, Tokitae still vocalizes in the dialect of her family and her family members are still alive, likely even her mom. There is hope that the next ruling will force her release and the well thought out retirement plan will move in to action. If you want to watch Lolita’s story you can watch the documentary “Lolita: Slave to Entertainment“.
For me the visit to San Juan was the highlight, it was a dream coming true! See San Juan Islands’ waters are home to many orcas – both resident pods (Southern Resident Killer Whales or SRKW) and transients. We drove from Seattle and took the leisure route with the only “must do” is our ferry ride from Anacortes to Friday Harbour late in the afternoon. We took a short ferry ride from Mukilteo to Clinton and I was truly in heaven – mountains, the Pacific Ocean. It was bliss. The drive was gorgeous. We stopped in Langley on Whidbey Island and stopped in at the Orca Network (it was actually Welcome the Whales parade day although we couldn’t stay for it) and then Penn Cove where Tokitae was taken from.
We got in to Friday Harbour after an hour long ferry ride, checked in to 123 West which was perfect for us – new, comfortable, right in the town and such friendly staff! With nothing really planned this first evening we went and grabbed some drinks and soaked in the views before we decided to head out to Lime Kiln Park to watch the sunset and hopefully see some orcas from shore. J, K and L pod often play off the coast of the park for visitors to enjoy!
While the sunset was stunning there were no whales hanging out, just a seal. I wasn’t discouraged though having an excursion booked on the Maya’s Legacy Whale Watching the next day.
Jeff had called, from Maya’s, while were having drinks the day before and asked if we were flexible with our time. We had been booked for 4pm but there is more likelihood for sightings earlier in the day when other boats are out. Of course seeing whales was a priority, so whatever it took. I was ecstatic when Jeff called that morning and said that J pod was spotted off the island and as an orca fanatic they are my favourite pod with 3 calves!
The trip was fantastic, mind-blowing, life-changing… Captain James Maya and his first mate Jeff made the trip even more enjoyable with their knowledge and love for orcas and everything in that ocean. We also had Melissa Sehgal on the trip who once served with Sea Shepherd in Taiji Japan and moved to San Juan Island to be closer to the amazing orcas and other sea life!
We had porpoises play on off the bow, hung out stellar sea lions lounging and of course the orcas! I saw my first male, who I think was J27 Blackberry or J26 Mike whose dorsals are just so majestic!
Of course we were almost about to head in but before we did Captain James made sure to find us one of the babies, J52 was swimming close to shore with it’s mother and seeing them made the day complete.
Now if you are interested in orcas and ever want to learn more, message me! I could talk with you for hours about them! I hope to make it to Super Pod next year (to visit with my new friends Jeff, James and Melissa and the orcas) and some day spend, at a minimum, a summer on San Juan Island. If you make it to the island make sure you book a trip out with Captain James and Jeff. We might be lucky enough to share a trip out together,
if when I make that dream a reality!