What I love most about Kasatka is her calm, quiet presence. She is the oldest daughter and is really starting to take the reins of her matriline when her mom allows. She doesn’t make too big of a fuss of anything. She’s often the calm, steady whale in the lead. I’ve been watching The Crown on Netflix lately, and Kasatka definitely reminds me of the young Queen Elizabeth II character in those regards. She only has one child at this moment, her son Finn, and you can see her sweet, steady personality really shine when they swim by. There’s nothing overtly exciting (no tail slapping or rolling around each other), but the two of them will often surface closer together than most other moms and sons. Most of the time it’s not just Finn, but her younger brother Takoda and sister Jade as well following her as another mom figure. I look at her and I can just hear Dory narrating, “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.”
When I took this photo of her, I was coming off of a really difficult year. One thing that got me through was the hope that I’d see Kasatka that summer. That was a stretch because L pod doesn’t come inland very often anymore and the odds of seeing one specific whale are slim. I prayed the night before this trip that I’d see her. I got to the island the next morning with my sister and as we sat on Cattle Point Road to look at the lighthouse, I kept looking back with the strange feeling that Kasatka was nearby. Her family hadn’t been seen in months and there were no reports of Southern Residents that day, so I dismissed it. Then, less than an hour later, someone reported members of L pod at Pile Point— just behind us. My sister and I raced to nearby Grandma’s Cove knowing full well that the whales might go north to Lime Kiln. But I had a feeling in my gut that Kasatka would come my way. That was the most calm I’ve ever felt while waiting for whales. A few minutes after getting to the point with no word on which way they went, we heard their exhalations getting louder and louder. I held up my binoculars and saw a confident, steady leader heading right toward me—it was Kasatka.
I never cried so hard seeing as whale as I did that day. After a tough year, my spirit and soul were at their breaking point. Kasatka and I were born the same year, and I really feel like she is the other half of my soul. When I look at her, I feel complete. In that moment at Grandma’s Cove, she healed me.