J38 Cookie by Sara Hysong-Shimazu ©2013
Back in 2004 when I was working as a Marine Naturalist on a tour boat, we had an extraordinary encounter with the J22 family off the southwest end of San Juan Island.
Jpod was in the Strait of Juan de Fuca very spread out in family and small groups. The waters and and currents were calm, so engines were turned off. We watched the J22 family out in the distance, mom J22 Oreo with her son J34 DoubleStuff, and her new calf J38 Cookie. We put the hydrophone in the water and heard their vocalizations! Cookie left his mom and brother and swam toward us. Then Oreo's vocalizations increased and Cookie responded vocally and he sounded like the baby he was! My imagination said Oreo was calling, scolding Cookie to come back to her, and Cookie was saying 'in a minute mom'. Curious Cookie did take his time swimming back to mom.
Hearing the distinct difference in Oreo's and Cookie's vocalizations was extraordinary and although we can often hear vocalizations, we can rarely identify who specifically is 'talking' as the Southern Resident killer whales have life long bonds to each other, and are especially physically close in their formative years.
By Caroline Armon