In the Kwak̓wala language of the Kwakiutl or Kwakwaka'wakw, speakers of Kwak'wala, of the Pacific Northwest, a blowhole is known as a ka̱'was, whether on a dolphin (porpoise) or whale and a porpoise is known as a k̓ulut̕a.
In the Pacific Northwest, we see many of their kind — the shy, blunt-nosed harbour porpoise, the social and herd-minded Pacific white-sided dolphin and the showy and social Dall's porpoise.
Of these, the Dall's porpoise is a particular favourite. These speedy muscular black and white showboats like to ride the bow waves of passing boats — something they clearly enjoy and a thrill for everyone on board the vessel. If you slow down, they will often whisk away, but give them a chance to race you and they may stay with you all afternoon.
Harbour porpoises are the complete opposite. You are much more likely to see their solid black bodies and wee fin skimming through the waves across the bay as they try to avoid you entirely. Harbour porpoise prefer quiet sheltered shorelines, often exploring solo or in small groups of two or three.
We sometimes see these lovely marine mammals represented in the art of the First Nations in the Pacific Northwest, particularly along the coast of British Columbia. You will know them from their rather rectangular artistic depiction with a pronounced snout and lacking teeth (though they have them) used to portray killer whales or orca.
As a group, even considering the shy Harbour porpoise, these marine mammals are social and playful. Humpback whales are fond of them and you will sometimes see them hanging out altogether in the bays and inlets or near the shore.
They are quite vocal, making lots of distinctive and interesting noises in the water. They squeak, squawk and use body language — leaping from the water while snapping their jaws and slapping their tails on the surface. They love to blow bubbles, will swim right up to you for a kiss and cuddle.
Each individual has a signature sound, a whistle that is uniquely their own. They use these whistles to tell one of their friends and family members from another.