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Captain’s Blog

The Resident Whales Of L-Pod

May 7, 2012

The L-pod is part of a larger group of whales called a clan. There are three pods in the southern resident killer whale clan, J, K, and L. Here is a list of L-Pod Members (Last Updated 2012):

L-2 Grace (Female) Born 1960: Grace is one of the older females in L-pod. She has one living son, Wavewalker (L-88). She lost her oldest son, Gaia (L-78) during the winter of 2011-2012. Gaia and Wavewalker were the best of friends, always seen close to their loving mother. Grace has a nick out of the middle of the trailing edge of her dorsal fin, and a largely open saddlepatch. Grace enjoys the company of her son and other females her age.

L-5 Tanya (Female) Born 1964: When the whale watching season began in 2012, Tanya was not present with the rest of her family. She passed away in the winter of 2012. She was only 48 years old, passing away much before her the 60 -80 year life expectancy. Tanya was a member of the L-9 matriline. She had lost both her sons, the most recent being Flash (L-73), who mysteriously died at the age of 25 in 2010. Many other losses have been experienced by her extended family. Tanya was most often seen with her nephew Nyssa (L-84), her only other living family member. Nyssa will miss his Auntie’s presence, and we sure will too.

L-12 Alexis (Female) Born 1933: After the winter of 2012, Alexis did not return with her immediate family to the waters of the Salish Sea. This indicates to us that she passed on during the winter months of 2011-2012. Alexis was one of the matriarch leaders of L-pod. Her family consisted of herself, her grandson Mega (L-41), and her granddaughters Matia (L-77) and Calypso (L-94). Her great-grandchild was born in the winter of 2010 but did not survive. Alexis had become the adopted mother of Mystery (L-85) who has lost all the older female family members in his life. The L-12 matriline is not always seen with the rest of L-pod. Because L-pod is so large with approximately 40 members, the branching off of a matriline may lead to the evolution of a new pod, but this process would take many, many generations. Alexis was easy to distinguish from other females because she had two nicks in the trailing edge of her dorsal fin with a solid saddlepatch. She was an important part of L-pod, and we miss seeing her alongside Mega. Matia, and Calypso.

L-22 Spirit (Female) Born 1971: Spirit is a female whale surrounded by male companions. She is most often seen close to her two sons, Skana (L-79) and Solstice (L89). Spirit also has a brother, Onyx (L-87) who spends most of his time socializing with J-pod whales. Spirit is not likely to have any more offspring, as she has reached the age of menopause for orca, which occurs after a female turns 40. Spirit has a tiny nick out of the back edge of her dorsal fin.

L-25 Ocean Sun (Female) Born 1928: Ocean Sun is the oldest member of L-pod and the second oldest member of the Southern Resident community. Ocean Sun is a matriarch leader in L-pod. She used to share this title with her good friend Alexis (L-12), until Alexis passed away over the winter of 2011-2012. She has no immediate family living in L-pod as one of her daughters and two grandchildren all passed away in the 1980s. She is the mother of Lolita, the only surviving member of the Southern Resident Community in captivity. There are many efforts to return Lolita to her mother and the rest of her family after 42 years of confinement in the Florida Seaquarium. She can be found spending time with Mega (L-41), Matia (L-77) and Calypso (L-94), all grandchildren of Alexis (L-12). Ocean Sun has a very large and dark opening in her saddlepatch.

L-26 Baba (Female) Born 1956: Baba has a close relationship with her daughter Ballena (L-90) and her grandson Crewser (L-92). Baba and her family are very social, who enjoy spending time with members of J-pod when they are in the same area. Baba has a unique saddlepatch with a black area in it that looks like a up-side-down human fist with the thumb sticking up. She also has a small nick out of the trailing edge of her dorsal fin near the top.

L-27 Ophelia (Female) Born 1965: Ophelia was an important senior female of L-pod who passed away in 2012. Ophelia unfortunately lived to see the death of all 4 of her offspring, with none of them surviving past the age of 20. She was very close to her sisters Nugget (L-55) and Surprise! (L-86). Between her two sisters, Ophelia was a busy auntie of 2 nieces and 2 nephews.

L-41 Mega (Male) Born 1977: Mega is one of the most iconic whales in the Southern Resident population. He also happens to be the largest male out of the 3 pods. Mega has a very tall dorsal fin with 2 nicks out of the back edge, one large nick in the middle, and one closer to the bottom. Mega can be seen swimming with his sisters Matia (L-77) and Calypso (L-94). He lost his grandmother Alexis (L-12) during the winter season of 2011-2012. Mega and his siblings were very close with their grandmother, often seen swimming separate from the rest of L-pod. Ocean Sun (L-25) and Mystery (L-85) also love to be with Mega’s family, so he has a tight-knit circle of friends and family.

L-47 Marina (Female) Born 1974: Marina has experienced many successes and many losses in her family. She had 2 daughters Moonlight (L-83) and Muncher (L-91) in 1990 and 1995, respectively. She then experienced a series of sad losses, giving birth to calves in 2000, 2002, 2005, and 2008, who all died shortly after birth. Her luck changed in 2010 when Marina gave birth to a son named Mystic (L-115), who is still alive and doing well. Marina became a grandmother in 2007, with the birth of Moonlights son Midnight (L-110). She is always seen very close to her tight-knit family.

L-53 Lulu (Female) Born 1977: Lulu is one of the few females her age who has never been seen with a calf. She lost her mother Canuck (L-7) in the winter of 2010. Even though she does not have any living immediate family, she is a happy whale who loves to display above water behaviors like breaching and tail slapping. She has grown attached to her cousin Racer (L-72) and Racers son Fluke (L-105) since the loss of her mother.

L-54 Ino (Female) Born 1977: Ino has survived her mother and three siblings. She is the proud mom of three offspring, her youngest born in December of 2010. Her oldest son is Indigo (L-100) and her second son is Coho (L-108). Her newest calf is Keta (L-117), whose sex has yet to be determined. Ino has a soft horseshoe shape within her saddlepatch.

L-55 Nugget (Female) Born 1977: Nugget is the proud mother of 4 living offspring. She has daughters Kasatka (L-82) and Lapis (L-103), a son named Takoda (L-109), and her newest little one, Jade (L-118) was born in the spring of 2011. The sex of this young calf is still unknown. Nugget also has 1 living sibling, Surprise! (L-86), along with several nieces and nephews. Her sister Ophelia (L-27), passed away during the winter of 2011-2012.

L-72 Racer (Female) Born 1986: Racer has a unique saddlepatch that has a very distinct thin pencil-line running through it, making her one of the easiest whales to identify in the entire population. She was named after Race Rocks where she was initially identified and photographed. Racer had her first calf in 2004, named Fluke (L-105). She sadly lost her second calf in the summer of 2010, which appeared to be stillborn. Racer carried her deceased calf for 2 days not ready to let go. This is not an uncommon behavior of orca to display after the death of an offspring.

L-77 Matia (Female) Born 1987: Matia is part of the L-12 matriline, named after her grandmother Alexis (L-12), who sadly passed on in the winter of 2011-2012. Matia’s mother and sibling L-64 have also passed away. She spends her time with her brother Mega (L-41) and sister Calypso (L-94). Matia became an auntie for the first time in 2009 to Calypso’s daughter Cousteau (L-113). Unfortunately Matia lost her first calf soon after birth in February, 2010. She has a similar open saddlepatch to her sister, with a noticeable nick out of the trailing edge of her dorsal fin.

L-78 Gaia (Male) Born 1989: We were all very sad to learn that Gaia passed away over the winter season of 2011-2012. Gaia was an adult male in L-pod who was rarely seen without his brother Wavewalker (L-88). Gaia was older and larger than Wavewalker, making it easy to tell which brother was which. Gaia had a small black area near the top of his saddlepatch, whereas his brother has a thin but distinct swirl in his saddlepatch. Gaia and Wavewalker both spent much of their time near their mother, Grace (L-2). He was a mature male, who liked to pursue the ladies of J and K pods, so we hope that he lives on in many offspring born to J and K females.

L-79 Skana (Male) Born 1989: Skana is another adult male in L-pod. Skanas name comes from the language of the Haida First Nations tribe located on the coast of Northwest British Columbia. The Haida use the word skana for killer whale, which translates to “killer demon” or “supernatural power”. He has a younger brother named Solstice (L-89), who he hangs out with the majority of the time. Skana can also be seen swimming alongside his mom, Spirit (L-22).

L-82 Kasatka (Female) Born 1990: Kasatka is part of a large family in L-pod. Her mother is Nugget (L-55), and her siblings are Lapis (L-103), Takoda (L-109) and L-118, who was born in the spring of 2011. Kasatkas new brother or sister will be named in the summer of 2012. Kasatka is also a mother, having her first calf in the fall of 2010, his name is Finn (L-116). It is not uncommon among orca for mothers and daughters to both have offspring at the same time, as a female orca can reproduce for up to 30 years.

L-84 Nyssa (Male) Born 1990: Nyssa is one of the many mature males of L-pod. He has lost his mother and his only sibling died shortly after birth. Because Nyssa has no living immediate family, he had taken to Tanya (L-5), who had lost both of her offspring. Unfortunately Tanya did not return with the rest of L-pod in the spring of 2012, therefore we know she has passed away. Orca are very loving animals who will readily accept another whale as their own family. Tanya and Nyssa enjoyed spending time with Ino (L-54) and her three youngsters. Ino probably enjoys the help from Nyssa with all those rambunctious little ones! Nyssa has a bright white saddlepatch with a very black V running through it.

L-84 Nyssa (Male) Born 1990: Nyssa is one of the many mature males of L-pod. He has lost his mother and his only sibling died shortly after birth. Because Nyssa has no living immediate family, he has taken to Tanya (L-5), who has lost both of her offspring. Orca are very loving animals who will readily accept another whale as their own family. Tanya and Nyssa also enjoy spending time with Ino (L-54) and her three youngsters. Ino probably enjoys the help from Nyssa and Tanya! Nyssa has a bright white saddlepatch with a very black V running through it.

L-85 Mystery (Male) Born 1991: Mystery has a similar story to pod-mate Nyssa (L-84). He has also lost his mother and has no living immediate relatives. After Mystery’s mother died when he was only 3 years old, his aunt raised him until she passed away in 2005. Mystery then developed a special bond with Alexis (L-12) and her grandchildren. It is not uncommon for orca to “adopt” other members of their pod when family members have passed away. Mystery suffered yet another loss of a mother-like figure when Alexis died during the winter of 2011-2012. We hope that he remains close Alexis’ grandchildren, Mega (L-41), Matia (L-77) and Calypso (L-94).

L-86 Surprise! (Female) Born 1991: Surprise! is the daughter of Sonar (L-4), who passed away in 1996. Researchers gave her the name Surprise! because that is exactly what she was because the last time her mother had a calf, Nugget (L-55), was 14 years previous to Surprise!. She lost her sister Ophelia (L-27), during the winter of 2011-2012. Surprise! had a son in 2005, named Pooka ((L-106). She then gave birth to a daughter (L-112) in January of 2009. She was first given the name Victoria, but was later called Sooke. Sadly, Sooke was found washed up on a Washington Beach in February, 2012. She suffered severe trauma to the head and chest region reportedly caused by underwater explosives and sonar used by Naval activity in close proximity to her and her family.

L-87 Onyx (Male) Born 1992: Onyx is a special whale who has demonstrated a behavior never witnessed before with any other Southern Resident orca. Onyx has a sister Spirit (L-22) and two nephews, Skana (L-79) and Solstice (L-89). He also has a male cousin, Mystery (L-85). Instead of spending time with his sister and male relatives who are all similar in age, Onyx wanted to explore a different pod. After his mother died, he spent a couple years with K-pod. Now, for the past few years, he has been adopted by J-pod. He can often be seen close to Spieden (J-8), who is an old female who has never been seen with any offspring of her own. Resident orca have never been documented leaving their natal pod. Because Onyx lost his mother and had no deeply rooted connection with any other family member, he may have sought a mother- like figure from other females like Spieden. Or maybe he realized that the best access to females is to be with them ALL year round, as he is now a mature male and orca only breed with members ofanother pod.

L-88 Wavewalker (Male) Born 1993: Wavewalker is always exciting to spot when L- pod is in the area because he will often be accompanied by his mother Grace (L-2). Wavewalker lost his big brother and best friend, Gaia, (L-78) over the winter months of 2011-2012. This inseparable duo could be spotted very quickly with their distinct saddlepatches and playful behavior. Wavewalker’s saddlepatch is very different on the left side than the right side. His saddlepatch on the left has a narrow, black boomerang shape in it, while the right side has a large triangular shape of black nestled in the white area. Wavewalker had a very close relationship with his brother. He continues to stay close by his sweet mother, Grace, but he likes to venture off when J and K pods are near so that he can meet the ladies!

L-89 Solstice (Male) Born 1993: Solstice has a little family consisting of his mother Spirit (L-22), and his older brother Skana (L-79). Solstice and Skana are not only brothers, but the best of friends. They have ben seen many times playing together with breaches and tail slaps creating thundering sounds across the water. Solstice can be distinguished from his older brother by their different dorsal fins and saddlepatches. Solstice has a shorter and wider dorsal fin than Skana, and Solstices Saddlepatch is closed while his brothers is open.

L-90 Ballena (Female) Born 1993: Ballena is a beautiful female whose name means whale in Spanish. She is the daughter of Baba (L-26), and all 3 of her siblings are deceased. She helps her mother watch over her nephew Crewser (L-92) now that his mother is gone. Ballena was noticed lagging behind the pod and having trouble diving and surfacing in the summer and fall of 2011. She may have a medical condition that could be causing these behaviors. Researchers continue to monitor her status and we hope she recovers from whatever is ailing her.

L-91 Muncher (Male) Born 1995: Muncher is an adolescent female who loves to spend time with her new brother Mystic (L-115). Munchers family has experienced many losses, with the death of 4 younger siblings from 2000 to 2008. All of these calves died shortly after birth. Her mother is Marina (L-47), and her sister is Moonlight (L-83). Muncher became an auntie in 2007 when Moonlight had her son Midnight (L-110).

L-92 Crewser (Male) Born 1995: Crewser has recently reached the young adult stage and will soon be part of the breeding cohort of the population. Crewsers narrow dorsal fin has a slight curve at the top, making him pretty easy to recognize amongst the other whales. Crewser has a grandmother, Baba (L-26), and his auntie is Ballena (L-90). Like most young males, Crewser likes to breach and play with other whales.

L-94 Calypso (Female) Born 1995: Calypso is part of the independent L-12 matriline. Her grandmother was Alexis (L-12), who died during the winter months of 2011-2012. Her siblings are brother, Mega (L-41) and sister, Matia (L-77). Ocean Sun (L-25) is a matriarch leader along with Alexis in L-pod, who is often seen traveling with this tight-knit family. Calypso became a mother for the first time to spunky little Cousteau (L-113), a female calf first spotted with her mother in October of 2009.

L-95 Nigel (Male) Born 1996: Nigel was born a year after pod-mate Crewser (L-92), who has become his partner in crime. Nigel lost his mother at the age of ten, making him the responsibility of his sister Racer (L-72). He can be seen babysitting his nephew Fluke (L-105) from time to time. Because Nigel is a teenage male, he has started to “sprout” a tall dorsal fin which will grow up to 6 feet (1.8m) tall by the time he is in his early twenties.

L-100 Indigo (Male) Born 2001: Indigo is the first offspring of a steadily growing family. His mother is Ino (L-54) and he has a brother named Coho (L-108) who was born in 2006. Indigos family welcomed a new member in December of 2010 when his mom gave birth to a healthy calf, L-117. The sex of this little whale has yet to be discovered, and he or she will be given a name in the summer of 2012. Indigo has a tiny nick near the top of his dorsal fin, and a very faint swirl in his saddlepatch.

L-103 Lapis (Female) Born 2003: Lapiss name comes from the beautiful gemstone that is a deep blue with golden flecks in it. Lapis is a member of a large family with her mom Nugget (L-55) and her three siblings Kasatka (L-82), Takoda (L-109), and newly born L-118, who has not been named yet. Lapis is a happy whale who loves to play with her siblings and her cousin Pooka (L-106).

L-105 Fluke (Male) Born 2004: Fluke has an interesting story as researchers were unsure of who his mother was when he was spotted for the first time. After several observations, it was determined that Racer (L-105) is his mom. Fluke has a light grey saddlepatch and a faint black opening in it. Fluke likes to stay close to his mom and play with other whales his age.

L-106 Pooka (Male) Born 2005: According to the Whale Museums list of whales, Pooka was named after a mythical creature from Celtic folklore who is a shape shifter who most often appears as a black and white horse. Pooka is the son of Surprise! (L-86). His younger sister Sooke (L-112) was found washed up on a Washington beach in February 2012. Pooka and his mother spend most of their time with his two aunts and cousins.

L-108 Coho (Male) Born 2006: Coho is a member of a happy little family consisting of his mom Ino (L-54), his brother Indigo (L-100), and a new brother or sister, L-117, who was born in December 2010. Coho is always seen close to his new sibling and other family members. He was named after the Coho salmon, a Pacific species of salmon that resident orca eat, though it is not their favourite. Coho has a very light grey saddlepatch compared to other whales.

L-109 Takoda (Male) Born 2007: Like several other whales in the Southern Resident community, Takodas name comes from a First Nations language. Takoda in Sioux means “friend to everyone”, a suitable name for an orca since they are very friendly animals to both each other and other species. Takoda is the son of Nugget (L-55), and he has two sisters, Kasatka (L-82) and Lapis (L-103). At the young age of thre Takoda became an uncle to Finn (L-116), who he plays with all the time.

L-110 Midnight (Male) Born 2007: Midnight was a welcome addition to the L-47 matriline. He is the first offspring of Moonlight (L-83). He also spends time with his Auntie Muncher (L-91). Midnight has a solid saddlepatch and a few long scars on the left-hand side of his back. Like most adolescent whales, Midnight is eager to play any time of the day.

L-112 Sooke (Female) Born 2009: Sooke was unfortunately found washed up on a Washington beach in February, 2012. She was found with severe trauma to her head and chest area. Initial observations concluded that her injuries were not consistent with a boat strike or attack from a transient orca. Further tests following a necropsy revealed that the cause of her death was due to fatal trauma caused by underwater explosives and sonar used by Naval activity in close proximity to Sooke and her family. She was the daughter of Surprise! (L-83) and sister to Pooka (L-106). Her loss is a huge blow to the population as she is one of only a few females born in L-pod in the past several years. The Whale Museum has displayed her skeleton as an educational display in Friday Harbor, San Juan Island, WA.

L-113 Cousteau (Female) Born 2009: Cousteau was named after the famous Jacques Cousteau, marine conservationist, explorer, inventor and photographer among many other things. Cousteau explores her environment alongside her mother Calypso (L94), who was given the name of Jacques Cousteaus research boat. Cousteau is a member of the L-12 matriline, being cared for my her great-grandmother Alexis (L-12), her famous Uncle Mega (L-41), and her Auntie Matia (L-77).

L-115 Mystic (Male) Born 2010: Mystic is the newest offspring of mother Marina (L-47). He has two older sisters named Moonlight (L-83) and Muncher (L-91). Mystic is a welcome blessing to a family who has experienced great hardship. Marina has lost the 4 previous calves before Mystic, all shortly after they were born. Mystic has been an active and healthy whale so far under the extra watchful eye of his mom and siblings. He also gets to play with his nephew Midnight (L-110), who is actually 3 years older.

L-116 Finn (Male) Born 2010: Finn was born into a large, tight-knit family. Although he is the first offspring of Kasatka (L-82), his family also includes grandmother Nugget (L-55), Auntie Lapis (L-103) and Uncle Takoda (L-109). Finn can be seen wrestling with pod-mates Cousteau (L-113), Mystic (L-115) and unnamed new comers L-117 and L-118.

L-117 Keta (Unknown Sex) Born 2010: L-117 is the newest calf born to Ino (L-54). Once Keta exposes his or her belly, we will be able to determine its sex by the different shapes of black pigmentation around the genital slits. Keta is well taken care of and entertained by his or her two brothers, Indigo (L-100) and Coho (L-108).

L-118 Jade (Unknown Sex) Born 2011: Jade is the newest calf of L-pod. We do not know if L-118 is male or female as we are waiting for someone to catch a photo of his or her underside to determine its sex. L-118 has a successful and loving mother named Nugget (L-55). He or she also has two sisters named Kasatka (L-82) and Lapis (L-109), and a big brother named Takoda (L-109). Jade is already an aunt or uncle, as big sister Kasatka had her first calf Finn (L-116) in 2010. Finn (L-116), Keta (L-117), and Jade will likely develop a close bond and be the best of friends in the future.



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