Search
  • Rachel Haight

JJ28 Polaris & J54 Dipper




Matrilines by Rachel Haight

J28 Polaris & J54 Dipper

2015 – 2016

Story by Rachel Haight



J28 Polaris & J54 Dipper

2015 – 2016

Story by Rachel Haight



Like many others, I fell in love with orcas after watching Free Willy as a kid. I was born and raised in Nebraska, about as far as you can get away from any ocean. But that didn't matter, as the sea and the whales have always had my heart. My mom brought me on vacation to see the Southern Residents back in 2004, and I vowed to myself that I would live out here one day. I made that dream come true by moving to Whidbey in July 2012. I started land based whale watching in August 2012 and since then I have spent thousands of hours watching whales of all kinds and have had too many memorable experiences to count.

Of the resident pods, I have spent the most time following J pod all around Puget Sound. A few J pod individuals have my heart, two of those being J28 Polaris and her baby J54 Dipper. I loved her unique notch in her fin. I loved that without fail, I saw her in every J pod encounter I have had, and usually close by.

When I came to visit in 2004, we stayed in Anacortes and I fell in love with the area. I loved the view both of and atop Mount Erie and it's become a beloved icon to me, still to this day. One memorable whale watch tour about 6 years ago, I had the privilege of watching J28 Polaris feed just off the boat in a glassy calm Rosario Strait with Mount Erie as a backdrop. It was like a symbol of all my childhood dreams coming true in one moment and I'll never forget it.

I have utilized nearly every ferry run to get a better glimpse of these amazing creatures. My most memorable encounter happened on the Coupeville ferry run. On a cold December day in 2015, J pod was headed into Admiralty Inlet and crossed paths with the ferry. J28 with a tiny fin passed behind the ferry. At the time, I had assumed it was J53, as J28 assumed babysitting duties for her baby sister. The next day, the Center for Whale Research confirmed the news of J28 giving birth to J54 a week prior, so it was really special to meet her baby boy I already loved so much before his birth was officially announced.

My most memorable, and last, days with both J28 and J54 came in April 2016. I was on a whale watch tour when we came across the J17s and J22s in slow steady travel south off the west side of Whidbey. J28 & J54 were traveling right next to mother/grandmother J17 & J53. It was the most precious moment, seeing 3 generations of orca including 2 young calves. The family bonds of these whales never cease to amaze me. They spent the next several days doing the "Whidbey east side shuffle", a time that will forever be the best days of my life. I got to spend so much time with J28, J54, and their amazing family. And, I got to do so with my beloved human pod that loves these whales as much as I do. J28 and J54 unfortunately passed away just six months after this magical time, so I will always cherish these incredible encounters.

We are so fortunate to be able to form both bonds with the orcas and with each other because of a shared burning passion. J28 Polaris and J54 Dipper will always hold a special place in my heart and gave me so many lovely memories and for that, I am forever grateful.


34 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All