I'm by no means a world traveler, but I have been fortunate enough to see some of the best the United States has to offer. From the manmade (New York City), to the historic (Williamsburg, Va.), to the untouched nature (Yellowstone National Park) I've been very lucky in my travels.
However, I think I would have to say Seattle, Wash., and the surrounding areas, top the list. It has a little bit of everything and as a nature lover and a hiker the sight of Mt. Rainier in person for the first time literally brought tears to my eyes.
That being said, the highlight of my recent trip out there would have to be the whale watching excursions I was a part of near San Juan Island. It was absolutely one of the most amazing experiences I have ever been a part of.
After the two hour tour, where we had the best watching of the season and were able to see a super pod (the three resident pods together for the first time in months), we unloaded at Friday Harbor for a quick stop to allow those on the tour to grab a bite to eat and quickly visit the island. Friday Harbor is a quaint little town, and my family and I strolled the streets in search of a souvenir t-shirt. I found a cute locally own store where the shirts were all designed by a local artist, something right up my alley.
As I perused the store, one particular shirt caught my eye.
The shirt, by Loea Shirts, said "Move the Bombing Range." Next to it was an article about a young Southern Resident (the name given to the local pods of orcas) who had turned up dead this past February. The cause of death was blunt force trauma, and pictures of L112 (or Victoria/Sooke, as she was named) show multiple traumatic injuries.
Biologist Ken Balcomb of the Center for Whale Research in an interview with the Epoch Times said he believes Victoria was the victim of a bomb blast, something believed to have killed at least one other Southern Resident 10 years prior (however multiple other whales have washed up on shore with injuries consistent with an explosion).
The U.S. and Canadian Navies frequently detonate underwater bombs and use sonar on test missions in the area, both of which are potentially lethal to marine life and especially orcas.
I am admittedly a peace-loving hippie sort and would love nothing more than to live in a world where testing bombs wasn't necessary. That being said, I do understand the need for tests, especially when bombing efforts take place in populated areas.
However, with so much of this planet made up of water, why do these test missions have to take place where the Southern Residents live?
According to Balcomb, the U.S. Navy is authorized to drop about 100 bombs a year out where the orcas feed. This has been going on for at least 15 years.
Orcas are endangered and there are only 87 members of the Southern Residents, and a loss of a female is an especially huge blow. Anyone who has been in that area can tell you the whales are not far away from the shoreline and it is disturbing on many levels that the Navies of the United States and Canada would test water bombs there.
Locals speak passionately of the Southern Residents, one woman I talked to had tears in her eyes describing her love of the orcas, and according to them multiple requests to their elected representatives to do something have come back with little more than a "Sorry, but if we move different marine life could be at risk."
This is unacceptable. Anyone who has ever watched these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat (straight dorsal fin and all) would not be as flip as these people have been when it comes to their safety.
There are various efforts online to raise awareness to this issue, including a petition. I have found, through my work on the Hill advocating for children, that oftentimes the best way to promote change is to have people bombard members of Congress with letters, emails and phone calls.
The members of Congress representing this beautiful area of our country need to know we want this issue looked into and we will not tolerate any more deaths of these majestic and horribly endangered animals.
There has to be a time when our natural resources and our wildlife are far more precious than advancing our military capabilities.
I will be contacting the following members of Congress to look into this issue and I urge you to join me:
Sen. Maria Cantwell
311 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
Sen. Patty Mrray
448 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
Rep. Rick Larsen
108 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515