cover of Orca Encounters


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Encounters with the ineffable

Orca Encounters: Images of Southern Resident Killer Whales

© 2007 by Monika Wieland

© 2007 Beth Helstien

If your family is like mine, you have guests in August, and one thing they hope to see is whales. Sometimes, however, the whales are hard to spot.  Or even if you do have a magical encounter with the denizens of the wild, your photographs often fail to turn out like the ones the professionals take. 

Orca Encounters allows the reader to sit comfortably in the dry climate of the indoors, out of the glare of the sun and blowing wind and spend some quality, intimate time with the killer whales of J, K and L pods. The book has 72 pages of full-color photographs. A short introduction provides general background information on natural history the Southern resident community of orcas.

Rich Osborne, the former director of The Whale Museum, has written a touching foreword to the book in which he celebrates Monika Wieland almost as much as he celebrates her book, which he calls a “beautiful tribute to the orcas.”

There isn’t a lot of information in the introduction, and there isn’t anything new. This book is about the photos, not the text. Photos of whales playing in the kelp, and diving, as well as newborn calves surfacing besides their mothers are some of the more unusual images that Ms. Wieland has captured with her camera.   

Eighteen years ago I moved to San Juan Island to work for The Whale Museum. During my seven years coordinating the Orca Adoption Program and fund raising for the museum I had the good fortune to learn quite a bit about the killer whales, to see a lot of beautiful photographs of orcas and other whales, as well as to have some amazing experiences with the orcas and other marine life around the islands. I never made the orcas my totem animal (I don’t believe I have a single totem animal). Yet I do understand the ineffable experience of a close encounter with the orcas. Many of the photos in this book capture that feeling in a way that many of the flashy big-name photographers don’t succeed at.

This lovely book would make an ideal gift for adult or child.  Anyone who has gone whale watching and been disappointed with their own poor photographs might buy this book as a way to treasure what Ms. Wieland calls an “indescribable” experience of having whales approach her as within a few yards as she sat on the shore to observe and photograph them.

Orca Encounters, like all books reviewed here, may be found at the San Juan Island Library.

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