David Jamison was on the west side of San Juan Island in 1964 or 1965 when the Southern Residents appeared on the scene. They were cruising by Limestone Point when he shot this photo.
But what David didn’t capture on camera is clearly emblazoned on his heart. He recently wrote to Orca Network asking if they might know the identity of these whales, and also related this sad anecdote, “…there was a baby near this family and as we were watching, the lighthouse keeper came out and shot the baby. The whales milled around for several minutes trying to keep the baby at the water surface, but after around 10 minutes the baby went tail up and disappeared. We shouted at the person and even took his picture. However during those days orcas were not held in high regard and fishers felt that they were stealing their catch.”
Can you imagine just peacefully enjoying the water, minding your own business, and suddenly your baby is killed? Can you imagine the frantic horror, trying to keep your baby alive? Orcas are among the most intelligent animals on the earth, and they are like pack animals, always sticking together with their family. How sad to lose a young member of the family, especially for no natural reason. Yet these same Orcas return year after year for their entire lives, and some in the wild can live to be centenarians.
Dave Ellifrit, of the Center for Whale Research, surmised the female in this photo might be K30; the male is possibly a J-pod member that was in the group that was captured in 1968 for marine park entertainment. For your money, the best place to see Orcas is right here, around the San Juan Islands.