Written by Simon Pidcock
Granny the 105 Year Old Orca Returns
August 6th 2016 – Granny the 105-year-old Orca is back. The Southern Resident Killer Whales’ oldest member and matriarch is back in the Salish Sea. J2 (the scientific name for Granny) and her family have spent the past few weeks foraging and traveling the Georgia Strait.
J2 has been observed and studied in our waters since the mid 1970’s and it’s estimated that she was born in 1911. The earliest pictures of J2 are from 1967. Dr. Ken Balcomb has been studying the Southern Resident Killer Whales since 1976 and is considered one of the leading killer whale researchers in the world. In 1976 when he first started documenting Granny and her family he observed J2, a mature female was almost always traveling with a mature bull. This mature bull was know as J1 or “Ruffles” due to the waves in the trailing edge of his dorsal fin. Ruffles was thought to be Granny’s only living offspring as female Southern Resident killer whales’ offspring stay with their mothers for life. Unfortunately Ruffles passed away in 2010 it was believed that he was 60 years old. In the early 1970’s J1 was the first endangered Southern Resident Killer Whale to be designated in the photo-identification study led by Cowichan Valley’s fore-father of killer whale research, Michael Bigg. What I find unbelievable is that killer whales never really don’t stop swimming and Granny has been swimming pretty much non-stop for over 100 years. The Southern Residents on average travel about 72 miles in a 24-hour period day in, day out. This means in Granny’s lifetime she has swam around the world the equivalent of a 100 times.
As we move into the spring and the herring run brings the Salish Sea alive we will hopefully start to see the Southern Resident Killer Whales on a daily basis. Last year was our best year for sightings so far. We saw either Orcas or Humpback Whales everyday from end of March to the end of October. Here’s to hoping that all of the Salish Sea’s inhabitants are well fed and thrive this season.