Thursday, April 2, 2009

An Interview With A Whale Named Mike

Courtesy of The San Juan Journal

 J-26 tells all in interview; voice-recognition software enables orca to share views with humans

Journal of the San Juans Reporter
Today, 9:41 AM · UPDATED

Voice-recognition software has been developed that enables researchers at The Whale Museum to translate Southern resident orca dialect into English.  For the first time, researchers employed the technology to conduct an interview with a killer whale — and get answers to age-old questions.

J-26 will now take your questions.

?“What time do the whales go by?” — Barry Thick, 55, Bellevue.

J-26: Thursdays at 2:45 p.m. Just kidding, Barry. The answer is whatever time we damn well please.

Do orcas eat only chinook salmon? — Natasha Pollock, 30-something, Everett.

J-26: It’s like choosing between filet mignon and top sirloin. They’re meatier and juicier and really yummy. So kings are generally our first choice. But we’re at the top of the food chain so, well, you get the picture. Personally, at my age, I snack a lot on rockfish because of the fiber.

Do you feel harassed by all those boats?” — Megan Propwash, 12, Orcas Island.

J-26: It’s no picnic. Imagine a bee or a mosquito constantly buzzing in your ears while your pushing a shopping cart down the aisle at the grocery store. But we’re highly-evolved marine mammals, so we adapt.

Frankly, I don’t get it. It’s not like we’ve got Brad Pitt or Britney Spears in our pods. And don’t get me started on that Navy sonar.

Does sonar hurt?” — Lt. Monica Ping, 33, Oak Harbor.

J-26: Are you kidding? Think fingernails on a chalkboard, times 100. The real irony is that even with sonar, helicopters and night-vision goggles, the U.S. and Canada are completely unaware of all those Iranian nuclear-powered submarines going in and out of Puget Sound almost every month.

What’s it like being so full of toxic chemicals?” — Melvin Isotope, 28, Friday Harbor.

J-26: It’s like drinking way too much coffee on an empty stomach. Try it sometime.

Where do you guys go for the winter?” — Jack Frost, 87, Shaw Island.

J-26: We’ve gone to a lot of different places over the years. The youngsters like Disneyland but personally, I’m fond of the Bay Area. Pier 39 at Fisherman's Wharf is my favorite. We hung out around Astoria this past winter but a bunch of snarky sea lions were there pestering us. They can be a real pain in the dorsal.

What do you think about those AIG bonuses?” — Alan Blackeyespan, 89, St. Croix.

J-26: Humans ... give ’em an inch and they’ll take your portfolio. In our world, we’ve got a way of dealing with sharks. I’m happy to hear some have given back their bonuses. Honestly though, there are bigger fish to fry.

Did you know that you’re in danger of extinction?” — Jessie Endoveittall, 10, Lopez Island.

J-26: Come again? Do you mean extinction, as in forever? We’ve had our ups and downs but that’s the first I’ve heard about that. I’ll have to get back to you on that one.

Ginger or Mary Ann?” — Bob Brawny, 42, Concrete.

J-26: “Mary Ann. She’s cute, sincere, and she adopted an orca.”

Reporter Scott Rasmussen can be reached at or 360-378-5696.

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