The skull of a transient orca will be one of the first items visitors see entering the Orca Survey and Outreach and Education Center in Friday Harbor. There will also be a wealth of information from the Center for Whale Research over their 42 years of studying the Southern resident orcas.
“Research is not what the whales need now, public education is,” said Ken Balcomb, founder of the Center for Whale Research and visionary of the education center located at 185 S. First St.
Pending Wi-Fi and computer connections, the center will open in July, and continue seven days a week throughout the peak summer season. That schedule will change during the offseason.
Besides the transient skull acquired by Balcomb in the 70s from a Japanese whaling station, the new education center will have interactive touch screens allowing guests to identify individual whale. Visitors will also learn about current research, listen to underwater vocalizations of the orcas and view live-stream footage when whales pass by the Center for Whale Research. Educational programs, movie nights featuring films like “Orca,” and assorted guest speakers including visiting researchers, field experts and naturalists are just a few of the projects anticipated for the educational center. Unlike a retail shop, the center will offer logo gear with the purchase of a Center for Whale Research membership. Clothes designed by local artist Jennifer Rigg, photographs of dorsal fins of each Southern residents and more will be available to members.
Balcomb is hoping that the public, armed with information about the Southern resident orcas, will work to prevent their extinction and encourage politicians to create policies that will increase the whale’s primary food source, Chinook salmon. Breaching the two lower Snake River dams would have the most impact for salmon and orcas, said Balcomb.
“It would result in the biggest salmon gain the fastest,” he added.
For more information, visit www.whaleresearch.com.