Ah, the whale museum…

            I would live at the whale museum if I could, surrounded by the skeletons, baleen, and echo of whales past. I don’t even know where to begin talking about what I learned and enjoyed there. Not much of the info that was presented was all that profound or new to me, but I did enjoy myself, maybe too much. I’ve done my fair share of nerding out on Orcas, so my apologies for spoiling the field trip for those of you who were les enthusiastic than me.

            Orca, the charismatic mega fauna of the northwest, loved to the brink of extinction. The group most often encountered out here in the temperate waters of Washington state are known as the southern residents. Proved to be genetically different from any other type of orca, speciated long ago, these whales have developed a few special quirks when it comes to interacting with each other and humans.

Orca behavior

            We’re all familiar with the typical behavior of whales from breaching, spy hopping, traveling and foraging, but what about the other less known characteristics?

back stroke

back stroke

Transient double breach in Hood Canal

Transient double breach in Hood Canal

Kelping - swimming through the kelp, seen at Lime Kiln frequently

Kelping - swimming through the kelp, seen at Lime Kiln frequently

 

 

 

 

 

 

A few years ago, one resident pod member started a trend of wearing salmon on its head. The fashion statement caught on quite quickly and soon the rest of the southern pods were sporting the trend.

Orca wearing salmon

Orca wearing salmon

Northern residents have found their spa on a beach on Vancouver Island. They use the rocks on the beach for rubbing on. Culturally and functionally these rocks are an important place for the whales and are now protected in a marine sanctuary.

Vancouver Island rubbing rocks

Vancouver Island rubbing rocks

Luna – humans and whales

            The orca calf Luna became separated from L pod. When he was first observed missing, fatality was assumed. Later, he was discovered surviving on his own, miraculously, in Nootka sound, BC. Lacking the crucial interaction that young whales need, this whale turned to humanity. It’s amazing the turn of events that have happened over the course of history between orcas and humans. Hundreds of years ago, these whales were respected by the native nations, shot during the early 1900’s and captured in the 60’s, now they face the tragedy of loving them too much and being poisoned at the same time. Luna was a key player in either changing humanities view of orcas or bringing about hostile views. The first nations of Nootka sound where the calf was living believed it was their recently deceased chief returning to them in the form of the Orca to help the tribe become stronger. Luna’s interactions with people included coming right up to the boat and wanting to be touched, playing fetch, and caused destruction to many a boat. The whale attempted to call his family everyday, but there was never an answer. He was quickly loosing his ability to ‘speak whale’ and function in a pod setting. Many attempts to return him to Puget sound to be near his family pod ended in failure. Unfortunately Luna’s story is not a happy ending, he was caught in a tug boat propeller before we could learn anymore from him.

I highly recommend two documentaries about the whale, Saving Luna and Luna: sprit of the whale. The latter is playing this Friday in the commons at 4:30 and I recommend that everyone go and see it.

Remember to save the whales! -Liza

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P.S. Free Lolita

Lolita - one of the last living captured southern residents still in captivity in Miami.

Lolita - one of the last living captured southern residents still in captivity in Miami.


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