The Coastal Post - July, 1996

A Noble Quest For Whale

BY JOAN REUTINGER

Jane ("Janet") Folliard has lived in Bolinas, Sausalito and Port Townsend. She has waitressed, refinished boats caretaken the elderly and done a wide variety of other jobs, but her passion is whales. Her life has become whales. Her future will be whales.

"The first marine mammal I knew was a female orca called Rosie. Rosie was furious, as I or you would be, because she had been out in the ocean and was suddenly captured and put into what seemed like a swimming pool. I started to cry at the injustice of it," Folliard. "The whale seemed to sense this empathy, and Rosie gently seized my arm. Oracs are supposed to be killer whales, and everyone told me to look out, but Rosie was very peaceful. I have loved whales from that moment on"

"I was down at John Lilly's place. He was attempting to get whales to communicate with humans. They make exotic sounds underwater, but no one really understands what they are saying," continued Janet.

Ever since that event Janet has been on a whale quest. She has been to Baja California to the most famous place, Magdelena Bay, where the female whales have their babies. The babies seem to like classical music, because when she has played records of violinist Itzhak Perlman, they listened for over two hours.

"I used to take my inflatable boat and drift among the whales for hours at a time, but this is no longer allowed by the Mexican authorities. I think it's because the Mexicans like to take tourists out to see the whales and babies in their boats, called tongas," she said.

Did you know that whales have brains larger than any other mammals (including humans)? Janet said that whales "are 20 million miles ahead of us humans, and did you know that whales are a species of dolphins? And that there are saltwater dolphins (whales), and freshwater dolphins in rivers?”

What the whales and dolphins are saying to each other when they communicate underwater, no one knows. Janet says, "It's a question of who should study whom."

Janet first had a boat out of Port Townsend, Washington, a 26-foot yawl called "Seabird." But then her beloved dog, Sam (who went everywhere with her, including the boat and the inflatable rubber boat) got sick with a kidney ailment and she sold her boat to have enough money to bring him back to health. He beat the kidney disease, but lost a battle with cancer eight months later. He died on May 4, despite all Janet's efforts.

Now, with no Sam and no boat she has located another boat. Beaten up and in need of repairs, a 37-foot sailer of the Alberg class is down in La Paz. She doesn't have enough money to go down there, let alone to buy it, but she's got a lot of faith and a hunk of hope.

"Boats are the most environmental means of traveling. You don't pollute, or cause anyone any trouble. A boat takes less of this world and it teaches you not to be greedy. You travel at seven miles as hour, if you're lucky. It's true you have to take on water and provisions. I have a five gallon tank of water and it teaches you to conserve water, if nothing else," continued Janet.

She said she wants to see the world in the 37-foot boat. She also thinks the boat would be big enough to take passengers to share the whales with her. She wants to see the Galapagos Islands, because there are whales there. And she wants to go up the Amazon River because there are river dolphins.

The 37-foot boat in in La Paz, Baja California. She says that the boat is in terrible shape now—"it needs tons of work—and could be bought for as little as $5,000. She is just hoping that someone who loves whales as much as she will advance her the $5,000 so she can buy it. "If I could find sponsors who want to become part of this quest for knowledge and being close to the whales they could become part of this. Spend a couple of weeks on the boat every year.

She wants to call the boat "Beluga" after white whales. After that, who knows? At any rate, it's a noble quest. You could become a part of it.

Janet Folliard can be reached at P.O. Box 1198, Fort Hadlock, Washington, 98339.