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Captain’s Blog

Saying Goodbye to Granny, the World’s Oldest Orca

October 4, 2017

This summer when I embarked on my first whale watching adventure with orca spirit, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I mean, I knew there would be wildlife, but I didn’t know what I’d feel. I was excited, but would I be blown away? Mesmerized? Terrified? I even allowed for the small possibility that I would be disappointed, as I wrote about here.

I’m not going to completely fabricate a feeling and tell you I felt connected to the three humpback whales we came across. They were swimming lazily beneath the waves, here I was bobbing along above the waves.

If anything, the stark contrast in our environments made me feel further than ever from a creature with which I share the planet.

But if I found out tomorrow one of those humpback whales was dead?

I don’t know how I’d feel then, either.

Watching Granny

For the naturalists and tour boat captains I’ve interviewed over the past couple years, losing Granny was like losing a member of the extended family. I know more than one of us shed tears at the news of her death.

Granny was a staple of J-Pod for all the years we’ve followed them. She was the uncontested leader of the pod, a mother to all the orcas. As we wrote about a few months ago, an orca that lived through two World Wars from the relative safety of the ocean knew a thing or two about preservation, both for herself and her family. Granny has been seen catching fish and sharing them with orphaned calves. She’s been seen guiding orcas young and not-so-young through the passages of the Salish Sea.

And she certainly guided our Orca Spirit faithful – returning guests and staff alike – on a magnificent journey of deeper understanding of the orca whales of J-Pod.

And now she’s gone.

So Many Lives Touched

“J2, the killer whale known as Granny, avoided being sold to a marine park in the 1960s and went on to lead a pod of orcas for another half century.”

“The world’s oldest known killer whale, affectionately known as Granny, is missing and presumed dead, researchers say.”

“A 1987 published study estimated that J2 was born in 1911, putting her age at 105.”

It’s not just us here at Orca Spirit, the aboriginal people who’ve called BC’s west coast home for centuries, or people living in the lower mainland, who mourn the passing of Granny. Her story is known worldwide. How is it possible for a wild animal with no access to medicine or technological advances to live for over a century? This is an answer we’ll simply never know.

For those of us who watched Granny care for J-Pod, those answers doesn’t matter. What does matter is that she died an inspiration to all of us – whales living beneath the waves and humans living up above.

Rest in peace Granny. You’ve earned it.



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