This year we’re having our crew members at Prince of Whales contribute blog articles. We like to encourage an ongoing education about our Ocean environment, and there are endless topics to be covered!
There are three pods of killer whales that reside for much of the year in the waters surrounding the southern tip of Vancouver Island. These pods, the Southern Residents, are called J-Pod, K-Pod, and L-Pod. Until mid fall 2010, J-Pod was made up of 26 whales. Ruffles, the oldest male in J-Pod is believed to have died in November. He was last seen by Prince of Whales skipper Mark Malleson on November 21, and although we’ve remained hopeful we’re finally accepting that he might be gone.
Ruffles (J-1) was estimated to be 59. He was the first whale to be recorded in the photo identification study led by Michael Bigg in the 70s. Ruffles got his name because the trailing edge of his 6 ft. dorsal fin was very wavy and looked like ruffles. His death is a sad loss, but he is revered for living past the age that most killer whales reach. His auntie “Granny” is still alive.
The name “Granny” is fitting, as she is the oldest matriarch of the three pods. It is estimated that she was born in 1911, which means that this year is her 100th year. Because of her technical name, J-2, her birthday has been set as July 2nd. There was even a birthday party being held on July 2nd, at Lime Kiln State Park on San Juan Island, hosted by the Centre for Whale research. When out on one of our zodiacs on June 29th with skipper Mark Malleson, I had a chance to see Granny and wish her an early happy birthday (if shouting “happy birthday Granny!” from 200 m away counts…). Both Ruffles and Granny were two of the whales in the “Free Willy” movies, and they will always have a special place in our hearts.