There’s a museum for everything and this one, on San Juan Island, Washington, is the museum of the “killer whale.” Whale watching in the San Juan Islands has become a $10 million industry in recent years. The Whale Museum estimates that more than 500,000 people descend on this region every year to catch a glimpse of the ocean’s fastest swimmers—the killer whales.
The Whale Museum celebrates the majesty and the science of the world’s largest mammal. In Friday Harbor, residents and summer visitors share the surrounding waters with the wild whales. These waters are the museum’s extended exhibit floor.
Whales play an important role in native cultures in the Pacific Northwest. The “orca people” in Paul Owen Lewis’s modern-day tale, “Storm Boy”, rescue a young native boy and introduce him to their undersea kingdom. There are many stories that have been passed down by the elders about experiences of Orcas.
For 30 years now scientists have been studying the southern resident community of Orcas – a group of roughly 80 individuals that live in the Salish Sea. Their social structure is recorded in a detailed genealogy chart.
The Orca Adoption Program helps people connect with a whale and then through that learn about all whales and the seas that support the whales.
A WHALE OF A PUZZLER
The Gray Whale Project started in 1995 with a call that reported a dead gray whale on a beach on Orcas Island. Instead of mounting the skeleton, museum directors left the bones as a giant puzzle, allowing people to put the animal back together again. As they assemble the skeleton, clues as to why this young male died emerge.