Remembering J52 “Sonic”

We never really know when an encounter with an individual killer whale will be our last. But I think we always remember the first.

The first time I’d ever laid eyes on Sonic (J52) he was travelling tightly beside his mother, Alki (J36), on the west side of San Juan Island. He was just a year old then, and I recall thinking that he was so small, so fragile.

But I remember seeing J52 the next day. This little calf who, at first glance, seemed so small and fragile decided to display just how powerful he could be! He continuously breached, pec-slapped and mimicking his mother’s every tail-slap all night long! His energy was so contagious. Better yet, infectious. We laughed and screamed in excitement every time he’d rocket out of the water.

The last time I’d see Sonic, he would be travelling with his two aunts, J42 “Echo” and J50 “Scarlet”, northbound in Haro Strait. All three were porpoising towards mother/grandmother J16 “Slick”, who had tail-slapped repeatedly minutes before. Seeing this tight-knit family come together was nothing short of heartwarming…

…but now seeing that very family fall apart is nothing short of heartbreaking. With a heavy heart, we say goodbye to another Southern Resident far too soon. J Pod just won’t be the same without you, buddy.

No mother, regardless of species, should ever have to watch her child die. Therefore, my heart breaks for J36 “Alki”. How did she comfort her son in his final moments? How helpless did she feel? How strange it must be for her to swim alone for the first time in over two years. An empty space by her side and an empty space in her heart.. 💔
To witness these incredible beings waste away when we have the answer to their demise in our hands, is beyond words. They need Chinook Salmon, desperately. The government needs to start acting now. Not tomorrow or the day after that, but today. Time is running out. Enough fooling around and dancing around the main issue. They’re starving. We shouldn’t have to push our government(s) to do the right thing.

-Brendon

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