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HOWARD GARRETT joined Gwen and Whidbey Chat listeners for his monthly Whale News visit.  A recording of the show can be heard on Thurs April 29th at 9am PST  and Fri April 30 at 4pm PST.  The KWPA  site for streaming and/or Howard & Orca Network can be reached through the links to your left – Click and Go

The Poop on Whales from the Coupeville Wharf

Picture by Klaus D. Neumann


Orca Network’s Howard Garrett walked down the wharf for his monthly visit to Whidbey Chat with Gwen Sam today.  One of the Orca Network Co-founders Howard is a regular guest on Whidbey Chat and is a sought after voice in all things Whale.  As with any time, Howard was full of interesting, even shocking news this week.  

Speaking about a new scientific peer-reviewed study, just released, Howard told Gwen and Whidbey Chat listeners there may very well be more than one species of Orca (Orcinus).  Killer whales may be as many as four or more species.  That is the proposal of a highly regarded paper written by lead scientist Phillip Morin, a geneticist affiliated with the National Marine Fisheries Service’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center and the University of California at San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography and colleagues in the field (authors listed below).  While Howard has yet to dissect the paper he was peeked with interest as to what this means to the future study of the Orca.  

Howard explained that Orca have been living and evolving in their related groups for so many millenium; hunting their group’s particular and exclusive food choice (fish, or mammals, or shrimp, or squid…) living, hunting and migrating in the same locations over and over again, speaking in isolated and distinct ways with particular vocabularies, that pod to pod their DNA is distinctly different.  Using genetic evidence the paper looks to prove killer whales likely represent three separate species and suggests ancestors diverged roughly seven hundred thousand years ago, though does not pin-point whether resident, “type-A” Antarctic and North Atlantic types could be a single species, separate species or, even still, a separate sub-species.  There will be much more to follow on this new marine science as the scientific community, academia and specialists in the field, pick apart this scientific paper.  Check on the links to your left to read more about the findings. 

Pertaining to our local whales, Howard never disappoints when it comes to clearing things up.  He clearly explained the recent transient Orca attack on a resident male Grey whale, named Patch, out in the Saratoga Pass. The aggressive ramming of Patch was done by the female Orca in T-Pod, and may have been part of a training session for the young whales present, as a way of teaching them hunting techniques.

He went on to explain the details of a necropsy (autopsy) performed on one of the five emaciated & deceased Grey whales found around the Pacific Northwest and Canada in the last several weeks.  Having been on one of the necropsy teams, Howard was there to see that particular whale had a stomach full of saw-dust, due to feeding in a coastal area near a saw mill.  Howard was not on the team that performed the necropsy, last week, on the Grey who had a stomach full of contemporary items found in any home, boat, department or grocery store.  Beyond knowing through visual inspection what was in the stomach, the scientific samples and data collected are still being processed and studied and there’s no definitive answer, as of yet, what killed the Grey whales. 

A resent post on the Orca Network facebook page stated – “More good news about whale poop!”  And hence, Whidbey Chat listeners were informed, by Howard, of a dog, named Tucker, who is specially trained to stand on the bow of a boat and recognise whale fecal matter in the water.  Tucker, a black lab, enables scientists to more easily collect whale poop, which they then examine to ascertain the health and welfare of the animal.  Our listeners can be assured that Orca Network delves deep into all things whale and today was a prime example.   And why snicker about whale poop – ask your own doctor – waste not want not – the stuff can say a lot about your overall health.  

This interview includes facts of fish (whale food) who seem to swim backwards for hundreds of miles, dogs that seek out whale dung, female whales who brazenly teach their young to beat up on animals 3 times their size, local whale sightings, new big science and a bit about the Langley, Washington, Welcome the Whales Day Festival last weekend.  Yet another wonderful month with Orca Network co-founder Howard Garrett. 

Whidbey Chat listeners, and Gwen would like to thank Howard, Susan Berta and the Orca Network for informing and entertaining us!  

The current information and related press about the Orca species study can be found on the Orca Network site  – click the Howard Garrett link to your left- once at the sight go to their “news” page.

The species study was conducted by lead author Phillip Morin, a geneticist affiliated with the National Marine Fisheries Service’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center and the University of California at San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and colleagues; Frederick Archer, Andrew D. Foote, Julie Vilstrup, Eric E. Allen, Paul Wade, John Durban, Kim Parsons, Robert Pitman, Lewyn Li, Pascal Bouffard, Sandra C. Abel Nielsen, Morten Rasmussen, Eske Willerslev, M. Thomas P. Gilbert, Timothy Harkins,  who collaborated over numerous years in as many places on the earth to propose this possibility.   Howard looks forward to seeing more of the study and promises to update the site as soon as more information comes in.  

Howard Garrett will be in to talk to listeners about this and other whale news!  It’ll be a whale of an education for our listeners.

Tune in live – Monday – April 26 – 96.9 FM in the central Whidbey area or stream on your computer from  Show will repeat Thurs. at 9am and Fri at 4pm. 



Kaye Erickson came into Whidbey Chat yesterday to share the history of the Whidbey Writers Group, and her own thoughts about being a writer and a member of a writers group benefits her writing and her life.

Kaye spent her professional career as a nurse and writer of nursing practices for text books, periodicals, and other medical publications.  To this day she’s a devotee of science, biology and the medical field with medical triumphs, tribulations and mystery weaving through her work.  

Presently Kaye is writing a book called Body.  The book begins with a long bickering married couple walking along the beach.  The wife comments that a particular log on the beach was not there yesterday.  The husband sharply asks if she thinks she knows every log on the beach, she concurs she does. But with a closer look, they both see, the newly beached log is not a log at all – it’s a body!  A dead body.  In the small coastal town, where the couple live and the story takes place, everyone knows everyone else but no one knows who the young man, laying dead, on their beach, is.  And so starts Body, another story by Whidbey Island writer Kaye Erickson.  

Kaye was born in Colorado in 1927.  She recalled, when explaining how she arrived on Whidbey, her father saying, after a visit, that Seattle was the most beautiful city he had ever seen.  She choose Seattle, as a young woman, with that comment in mind.  Bringing two younger sisters she was raising after their parents died, she moved from Colorado and began life in this area.  She eventually married and raised a son.  Now a widow living on Whidbey, Kaye misses her husband deeply but has found much joy in her life without him. She lives fulfilling days, has many loving friends and family, a busy schedule, her writing and a cat that has her wrapped around its paw.

Going from professional medical writing, a straight forward and scientific form of writing, during her years as a nurse, she now writes essays, fiction and poetry.  Her writing duties are usually performed at night when there’s a cloak of light around her and her cat is purring alongside.  Of late, besides writing fiction, Kaye has been spending a lot of time organizing her writing papers as a gift to her granddaughter who also wants to be a writer. 

Kaye’s work can be found in several Whidbey Writers Group publications.  Her mystery work is part of Whispers in the Mist (Tales of Mystery and Suspense), Published in 2004, Gull Rock Publishing. 

Gwen and Kaye discovered, during the interview, that they both admire Dr. Richard Selzer’s books.  A doctor of medicine turned writer, Richard Selzer’s work transcends high brow medical writing to a fascinating, lyrical trip through .   Selzer’s work has been an inspiration to Kaye since he first published, and she continues to follow his new work while rereading his old. Serendipitously Gwen picked up Selzer’s book Mortal Lessons: Notes on the Art of Surgery (1976) a few of years ago and was floored by how much she loved it.  Enjoyed it so much, she endlessly touted it and passed it around to several people before finally, a couple of years ago, presenting it to her niece, a newly graduated nurse who now works in the Univ of Washington Kidney and Liver Transplant Dept, as a gift.

Kaye expresses her love for writing, her devotion to the entity of fellow writers and friends who make up the Whidbey Writers Group, her take on the need for trusted and constructive criticism and how when presented without ill intention within a formal writers group setting can elevate a writer’s confidence and production.

Reading two poems from late writers of the WWG, Kaye shines as a reader.  In addition to the poems Kaye read the forward from one of the WWG published books of short stories, saying that it encompassed her own feelings about who, what and why the Whidbey Writers Group is.  To end her reading Kaye read from one of her shorts. 

Thanks Kaye for coming on Whidbey Chat with Gwen Sam!  We’ll be seeing you again soon.

Barb Bland a Whidbey Writers Group member joined Gwen on Whidbey Chat to continue our Whidbey Writers Group series.

Barb’s genre in writing is the memoir, currently she is finishing a memoir of a once homeless and wild dog she adopted.    11 years ago while she was a volunteer at WAIF (Whidbey  Animals’ Improvement Foundation) a litter of puppies, some of whom suffered from sever shyness, came into the shelter.  One shy puppy from that litter, Pikachu, is the subject of her book.  After a long dramatic tale of rescue, attempted training, running away, roaming wild (on central Whidbey island) for a year and finally being caught by Barb, Pikachu is an extraordinary and almost normal dog.  During his homeless phase, running wild on the island, Barb and her dog Blue, whom Pikachu actually liked and would come to, would stalk him with the intent of capture.  Barb would cook chicken livers for him, sit for hours in the beach area he was living, talking and visiting with him.  But he would not come close enough to catch.  Eventually, after a year of combing the island, laying awake at night plotting her next move, Barb and Blue caught Pikachu.  That capture is just the beginning of a long, difficult, satisfying and loving relationship, and story.

Barb feels sad endings are too emotionally draining for animal lovers, and is planning to finish the book before “Piki” shows real signs of aging.  Today “Piki” is doing very well, after many years of training and support from Barb, and no longer runs out of the room when people (especially men) enter and is happy to not run away and live a wild life.  He shares his home with Barb, her husband, his dear friend and dog companion, Belle (Blue passed away sometime ago), and two adopted orange tabby female cats, Maize and Ginny. Pikachu has also learned from “Beggar Belle” to mooch treats, instead of regarding them as bait, as he used to do when Barb was trying to trap him. 

Barb’s excerpt reading of her book was sad, shocking, exciting and triumphant!  We look forward to seeing it in bound book form!  

Major influences on Barb Bland have been her home state of Wisconsin, France and Alaska. A former teacher, retirement has provided her the opportunity to do many things she “threatened” all her life to do, if ever she had time — two of which are artwork and writing. Fond of animals, travel, sports and music, she and her husband now lead an active life on Whidbey Island, Washington.

THANKS BARB !  Great interview and reading!  Can’t wait to follow up with you this summer.

Penn Cove is full of Orca today.  We can see whales in the cove as this is being typed.  Several watchers even saw them breach and/or spy-glass.

Are they a transient pod?  Our local J and L pods?  Well, between the local news and Whidbey Chat’s regular guest Howard Garrett, from we’ll find out over the next few days and weeks.  Tune in to KWPA – – Monday, April 26th at 11am and Howard will enlighten us. As always Howard and Susan Berta (founders of are being sought out by news outlets all over the world to help people understand the recent events of, and between, whales around the Pacific Northwest.  See links below. 

To recap the last two days – yesterday a whale watching boat was close enough to a ruckus between a single Grey and a pod of Orcas (assumed to be the same transient pod spotted all week around the area), to get the sight recorded and photographed by tourists.  Right now, according Candi Emmons of NOAA Fisheries  – National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who called the orcanetwork, the Orca involved are a transient pod, ID’d as T-pod, who reside during season in British Columbia, Canada.  Candi’s NOAA introduction page is –

Here is a link is a local TV broadcast about the Orca Attack story –

And below is an Associated Press Report on the attack from the Washington Post from the link:

Orcas seen in rare Puget Sound gray whale attack

The Associated Press
Monday, April 12, 2010; 6:41 PM 

SEATTLE — Whale watchers in Puget Sound caught a rare and dramatic sight from their tourist boat: a pod of orcas speeding by in attack mode and then ramming a gray whale under water.

After the gray whale dove beneath the water Sunday, the pod of attacking transient killer whales followed suit.

“Everything was quiet for a minute,” said Monte Hughes, captain of the Anacortes-based Mystic Sea Charters. “Then the water went into a frenzy. … You could see the movements of the gray whale being hit underneath the water.”

A short time later the gray whale surfaced, belly up, and jerked upward two or three times as it was being hit from below, he said. The killer whales then took off, and the gray whale floundered for a time, but eventually swam toward shallow waters.

Howard Garrett, director of the Orca Network, said there have been three other reports of transient orcas attacking gray whales in Puget Sound. The first sighting was March 22.

Transient orcas are different from the three pods of Puget Sound orcas that feed on salmon. These whales typically eat marine mammals such as sea lions, porpoises, dolphins and gray whales.

Robin Baird, a marine biologist with the Olympia, Wash.-based Cascadia Research Collective, said it’s not unusual for transients to attack gray whales but most of the attacks have occurred in California or Alaska, in areas where the grays are particularly vulnerable.

“I have not heard of them attacking grays in Puget Sound before,” Baird said in an e-mail from Hawaii, where he was doing field work.

Whale observers said they’re not sure why the attacks happened.

“It doesn’t fit the usual textbook wildlife behavior,” Garrett said. “They usally pass by each other and pay no mind.”

Hughes said he hasn’t seen anything like the attack during his 20 years operating whale-watching tours.

Noela Graham, a Whidbey Island resident, watched the attack with about 30 other passengers aboard the Mystic Sea and recalled it being “extraordinary to witness something that you see on a National Geographic Channel.

After the first group of seven orcas attacked the gray whale and left, another pair of orcas approached the gray whale.

Hughes said he positioned the boat near the gray whale to deter another attack.

“I think we were able to deter that hopefully,” he said, noting that the whale got its breath, got up right, and very slowly started heading for the beach.

Erick Peirson, a captain with Puget Sound Express, witnessed another encounter while hosting 30 passengers on a whale-watching tour March 30. He said four transient orcas circled three gray whales not far from the boat. One male transient rubbed up against a gray whale, and there was a lot of splashing before the orcas took off.

“It happened real fast,” he said. “It was a real brief touch-and-go.”


A group of students from Anacortes High School and the Anacortes Home Education Partnership are raising money to go to Costa Rica this summer to participate in Ecology Project International’s sea turtle program. Students will spend time doing course work and research while helping protect the endangered leatherback sea turtle. Pictured, from left, are Amelia Tomayko, Seth Harrold, teacher Mira Lutz and Amber Paszkowski. rica/Photo Credit Kimberly JacobsonAmela Tomayko (far left in photo) joined Gwen on Whidbey Chat today to share her upcoming educational science trip to Costa Rica.


Amela Tomayko joined Gwen on Whidbey Chat today to share with listeners her upcoming science trip to Costa Rica.

Amela is the daughter of Chris and Rita Tomayko.  A 10th grader, Amela, along with her two brothers, is enrolled in the Anacortes Home Education Partnership (AHEP).  AHEP partners with the Anacortes Public School District in order to provide students and families with a home school alternative supported by the public education system.  Amela maintains an A average and plans to go into journalism – preferably with the National Geographic.  

On June 18 Amela will be one of a group of students who will travel to Costa Rica on a science based field trip with Ecology Project International (EPI).  EPI’s mission is to improve and inspire science education and conservation efforts worldwide through field-based student-scientist partnerships and this will be the 9th year EPI has offered the Sea Turtle Ecology Program.  Amela is excited to be one of the students who’ll have the opportunity to travel to Costa Rica and work at the field site on applied research projects with Leatherback Sea Turtles.  For more information visit

Amela has been working as a waitress at her parent’s restaurant in order to help raise funds for the trip.  The student’s will also hold A Garbage-a-Thon (like a walk-a-thon) on Saturday, April 17 as another way to raise the needed dollars to afford this unusual educational opportunity.  At the Garbage-a-Thon the students will clean up parks, roadways and school yards for sponsorships.  To sponsor a bag for the garbage-a-thon, e-mail teacher Mira Lutz at   A car wash is planned this spring.

Coming to the island from Ohio with her father’s US Post Office job, Amela says she and her family love the area.   Since arriving on the island Amela’s parents, Chris and Rita, have opened the restaurant Mosquito Fleet in Coupeville.  Rita commented to Gwen when talking about opening the restaurant that they “needed a job”. Only one year old, the restaurant won the 2010 Chowder Contest at Coupeville’s annual Mussel Fest.  Amela said it was a difficult recipe.  Looks like difficult tasted pretty good and paid off.

During the show Amela’s two brothers, Max and Gus, dropped by as in-studio audience.   Gwen is going to get them on the show sometime soon to talk about the woodworking classes they are taking right now along with their college prep courses. 

Best of luck on your trip Amela!!   We’ll be looking forward to hearing all about it on your return.  

Leatherback Sea Turtles have been here for over 65 million years.  Their habitat spans the globe from the North Atlantic close to the Arctic Circle down to the South Pacific in the area of New Zealand.  Leatherbacks are the largest turtle, reaching a shell length of 1.7m and a mass of 700kg.  Leatherbacks migrate hundreds of miles every year. Males never leave the water, but females come back to land for a short time (1.5 hours) to lay eggs. Each female leatherback has the potential to nest up to ten times in one nesting season, and return every 3-4 years for as long as thirty years! No leatherback on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, however, lives long enough to make this kind of contribution to her species. Most Pacific leatherbacks only nest once because they are killed at sea.

THANKS to Dorothy Read for coming into KWPA’s studio to continue Whidbey Chat’s Whidbey Writers Group series.  Dorothy is a long time resident of the island, a former teacher and decade long member of the Whidbey Writers Group.

Dorothy shared with Gwen the benefits of being a long-term member of a writers group like Whidbey Writers, how fellow writers build relationships with each other through reading and critiquing each other, and how that enhances the processes and outcomes of her written word.  It was interesting to hear what inspires Dorothy’s writing, how she goes through the process of writing a piece from inception to finish. and finally the long arduous task of editing a manuscript, finding an agent and eventually a publisher.  

Dorothy also beautifully read an excerpt from her short story Busses, Trains and Taxicabs, published in the Rocking Chair Reader series Family Gatherings.

Dorothy’s most recent book, a memoir called End the Silence, as told by  Ilse Evenlijn Veere  Smit, is Ilse’s World War II experience in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) during the Japanese invasion and occupation.  Taking in excess of 5 yrs. to write End the Silence is a story of endurance, suffering and triumph.  If you know the history of what is now Indonesia – you know there must be tens of thousands of horrific and heroic stories attached to its occupation and eventual sovereignty.  Dorothy’s painstaking and years long work with Ilse, has resulted in a book that helps the reader understand the brutal, tragic and heroic aspects of a part of the world and WWII that many of us do not often hear about.  End the Silence details and honors Ilse’s life and that of the thousands who suffered and struggled along side her in those shocking and often untold times.  The book has gotten good comments from editors and is currently seeking a publisher. 

THANKS Dot!  It was a great interview!


Glen Russell, Whidbey Island resident and artist, was commissioned by the


Monday – April 5th – Rick Castellano, Executive Director of the Island County Museum in Coupeville was a guest on Whidbey Chat with Gwen.  As Executive Director of the Museum Rick is the “go to man” for everything Historical Whidbey.  Rick will be a regular guest on Whidbey Chat.  THANKS RICK!!!!   The show is replayed on KWPA 96.9 or streamed on your computer each Thurs at 9am and Fri at 4pm. 

Below you will find the information about one of the museum’s current programs – the “Why History” writing contest.  Gordon Grant, program director at the museum will be handling all the details.  ENTRIES must be recieved by April 30th, 2010.

ISLAND COUNTY HISTORICALSOCIETY is holding the first “WHY HISTORY?” Writing Contest in two groups:   Group One is open toall High School students on Whidbey Island;   Group Two is open to all adults on Whidbey Island. Parameters: Write an essay at least three pages long but not longer than six, double-spaced, on the importance of history in general and of historical awareness here on Whidbey. The winner of each group will receive a $50 prize, free museum membership, and a yearlong discount on purchases from the museum store.

Please submit entries, with $1 High School entry fee, to:

ICHS, attn: Gordon Grant,
Box 305, Coupeville WA 98239. 
-All entries must reach us by April 30, 2010-

Winning entries will be printed and available in the museum store – and mailed to all policymakers for our area. See your name in lights and help us stay vigilant! Be sure to include your name, phone, email, and high school name at the top of your submission. ICHS website:

For information contact Gordon Grant, ICHS Education & Programs, 360-678-3310.



Pacific Grey (Gray) Whale








Howard Garrett with joined Gwen Monday – March 29th – for an update on the life & times of wild whales in our area.  We are happy to announce Howard will be a regular guest on Whidbey Chat.  Beginning April 26th Howard will come in the last Monday of each month to educate and entertain us about our whale life. Welcome Howard!

This week Howard filled us in on the Grey’s (grey whales = eschrichtius robustus) that are visiting and feeding in the area, mentioning the Orca’s were a little late this year and had not yet arrived from their winter waters.  It was interesting hearing how greys eat.  To feed a grey whale will use it’s body (some think only the right side) to stir up the mud at the bottom and then gulp mouthfuls of the mud from the bottom.  Once the mud is taken into their mouths they use their whiskery baleen (a part of their mouth) to filter out the unwanted material, then their tongues loosen the food from the baleen, and they swallow it.  It is believed a single Grey can turn over 45 plus acres of mud during a season. This churning oxygenate the mud, exposes it to the nutrient rich water and helps to reseed for the next years harvest.   Grey’s mostly capture amphipods in their whiskery baleen.  Amphipods feed on phytoplankton and zooplankton and Grey’s subsequently feed on amphipods.

Howard then mentioned an emaciated Grey that has been spotted down south. He and others are unsure as to why this animal is so malnourished.  Being such a large and wild animal it is difficult to impossible to get close enough to discern the problem a distressed whale may be suffering from, be in illness or injury.  Howard mentioned that it could be mites…  (note: this is not proven – only assumed by an experienced whale expert).  He said and several other organizations and academic institutions are keeping an eye out for this distressed animal and hoping to find out soon if the animal will survive or not.   Rescuers and scientists want to ge to a deceased animal as soon as possible, before the body begins to decays in order to perform a necropsy (autopsy).  Howard talked to our listeners about the necropsy (autopsy) that was done on a dead Grey, found in the Saratoga Pass some time ago, and the pain staking process of doing an necropsy on an animal that is so large.   These scientific procedures are done only when a deceased whale is located, roped and towed to a location in time for the necropsy. ( Necropsy – “An autopsy—also known as a post-mortem examination, necropsy (particularly as to animals), autopsia cadaverum, or obduction—is a medical procedure that consists of a thorough examination of a corpse to determine the cause and manner of death and to evaluate any disease or injury that caused the death”)

Grey whale’s are about 40 to 50 feet long, weigh 50,000 to 80,000 pounds, have a double blow hole (blowing up to 15 feet high), 9 to 14 dorsal nodules on their back (verses a back fin), and feed through their whiskery baleens.  The natural color of a grey is dark gray, though the older an animal gets the more color change one sees on their body ( barnacle scars,etc, skin conditions, etc. ).   Tune in to hear more each month from Howard Garrett of

The Orca Network provides local residents/institutions/academia with valuable information & daily whale sighting coordinates.



April 2010
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