Family Forever: Checking in With 6 Resident Orcas of J-Pod
April 19, 2017
The longer days, the scent of spring in the air, and the gently warming waters of the Pacific Northwest ought to bring a sense of pure joy to the team here at Orca Spirit, but unfortunately a tragedy struck a few months back that’s painting everything with a sombre shade as we head into the busy whale watching season.
Granny has passed away.
J-2 Granny was widely thought to be the oldest killer whale in the world, and mother to the oldest male on the planet, J-1 Ruffles, an orca that passed away at 60 years old.
While it’s going to be heart-breaking to tour the waters of the strait without Granny’s ever-tender presence guiding J-Pod through the Salish Sea, it’s a testament to the power and health of these magical animals that she lived so long and produced such an enormous impact on the future of the resident orcas of J-Pod.
Her legacy is immediately legendary.
Read more about Granny’s incredible life in a heart-felt goodbye from our own Rachael Merrett.
To kick off the semi-official 2017 whale watching season, we thought it would be fun to check in on a few of the more unique family dynamics we’ll be seeing this season.
One orca we’re eager to visit is Samish because she’s Granny’s Granddaughter! Granny’s death is sad, but she lived a long and rich life, and passed on her feistiness to her offspring, not the least of which being Samish. Like her grandmother, Samish can also be spotted caring for her family. She’s a beautiful reminder of the power of the pod.
Mike is an interesting name in a pod that includes names such as Polaris, Riptide, Oreo, and Princess Angeline! The neat thing about Mike is that he was named after Michael Bigg, a biologist who was considered the founder of modern orca research. Bigg pioneered dorsal fin and saddle patch identification in orcas. Mike carries on his namesake’s legacy with pride as he plays with his good buddy and pod-mate Blackberry.
Another example of the powerful matrilineal lines of the resident orcas of J-Pod, Tsuchi can be viewed helping her brother Blackberry care for their younger brother Mako. The three orphans spend a lot of time with other orcas their age, but they’re never far apart from each other.
The granddaughter of Granny and the daughter of Samish, Hy’Shqua’s name is special to the coast Salish people in the Samish language, as it refers to a special blessing or thank you. She certainly lives up to her name as she delivered her first calf at the age of eleven, which was out of the ordinary since most females don’t give birth until at least 14, with the majority of births occurring between 17 and 20 years.
Another special name translating to “younger sibling” given by the Samish First Nation, Se-Yi-Chn spends most of his time taking care of his adopted nieces and nephews. He is also the sixth calf born to Samish, further extending Granny’s ever-growing matrilineal line.