Eye to Eye with J27 Blackberry
J27 Blackberry in San Juan Channel. Video by Cindy Hansen
b. 1991 Male
by Owen Begley-Collier
The first time I saw orcas up close, I was a 10 year old messing around in the waves at south beach. The waves were pretty small, but to 10 year old Owen, I might as well have been at Nazare. As I waded in the chilling surf, my mom yelled out my name. When I came over she said she thought she saw the white belly of an orca among the whitecaps out in the distance. Even 10 year old Owen knew that there was a 99.9 percent chance that it was also a whitecap, but I was down to go to Lime Kiln to see what we could see. All throughout the day we had a feeling we would come across some orcas, and there was no better place than Lime Kiln for that to happen.
On our way there I saw what looked like a couple of fins through the glare of the sun, and they were heading in the direction of Lime Kiln. So we continued on and ran down the gravel path to the lighthouse. When we got down, there were no whales in sight, so I decided to scramble on the rocks to pass the time. As I was facing the rocks, my mom yelled, “Owen look!” Right in front of me was the slick black fin of an orca only a few feet away from where I was standing, I was eye to eye with my equal in water. At first I could barely process what I was seeing. When my mind finally did process it, I started yelling excitedly and obnoxiously as the whales porpoised in the wake of a ship further offshore. Despite my screaming, a large male orca decided to make a visit. Out of the blue, this huge orca bursted out of the water with a gunshot sounding breath that knocked the wind out of the people sitting on shore. He was even closer than the first whale, and we all sat frozen on the rock as he slipped back into the sea. His fin was wavy and his saddle patch looked like a cloud, no one got pictures of him, but if I had to guess, I would say it was probably Blackberry. As the sun went down, the whales became tiny specks on the horizon with little puffs of spray hovering above them. A little bit of luck and possibly some telepathic communication had led us to an experience we would never forget, and that gives me motivation to continue protecting these whales by pushing for the removal of the Snake River dams.