In an effort to educate and give back to the public, the Center for Whale Research has opened the Orca Survey Outreach and Education Center on First Street, above the ferry terminal lot in Friday Harbor.
“We are really excited about this new center. I can’t wait for the tour today,” said Becki Day, executive director of the San Juan Island Chamber of Commerce.
People clearly shared her sentiments as they packed the sidewalk eager to take a look at the new venue at the opening on Aug 21, at 11:30 a.m.
“We have been studying the whales, and now we want to give back to the community what we learned,” said Ken Balcomb, founder of the Center for Whale Research. He thanked center staff and volunteers and members of the island community before using a pair of giant scissors to cut the ribbon signifying the official opening of the center.
The center will be open from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. daily said Katie Jones, education and outreach manager, until later this fall or winter when the schedule will be adjusted to the slower season.
The event also marked the launching of the 100 Club. To join, each member of the club pledges $100 a month to the center. The group will be offered special benefits, including center swag, like clothing, and the group will meet occasionally. One attendee joined immediately after the announcement.
After the ribbon was cut, the crowd flowed into the center and were greeted by a life-size dorsal fin cedar sculpture of J-1, Ruffles by local artist Jim Burgess. Ruffles was an easily recognized male in J pod due to his large unique ruffled fin. There is also a killer whale skull and an interactive touch screens sharing information about whale research. Visitors can watch footage of the Southern resident killer whales from the center’s research boats as well as listen to underwater vocalizations from orcas. Exclusive merchandise like clothing items designed by local artist Jennifer Rigg, of LOEA Designs, are available with a purchase of a membership. Guest speakers, movie nights and educational programs are in the planning stages and will be scheduled for the quiet season.
“It [the center] is free, so now the public can come and learn as much as they want about the whales and what their needs are,” Balcomb said, emphasizing that the endangered whales’ basic need is that they have to eat.
For more information, visit the Center for Whale Research at https://www.whaleresearch.com/, or their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/CenterForWhaleResearch/videos/717477741930679/.