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Articles in "The Dorsal Spin"

The first daughter of matriarch Skagit (K13), she was born in 1986. She has three siblings and a nephew: brother Scoter (K25), born 1991; sister Deadhead (K27), born 1994, and her son K44, born 2011; and brother Cali (K34), born 2001.

He was born in 1992, when his mother Olympia (L32) was about 37 years old. One three-year-old sibling died in 1981, long before he was born.

Transient killer whales have been roaming around lower Puget Sound as if they own the joint, and their presence seemingly affects our Southern Residents.

The advent of December brought with it a refreshing end to our dorsal drought. Two killer whale ecotypes, Resident and Transient, visited Vashon-Maury waters at the start of the month.

An expression of gratitude is in order to everybody who attended our "Killer Whales in Peril" event. As we stated at the talk, we owe it to our endangered orcas to stay informed about the serious threats they face.

Another J Pod orca is missing and presumed dead. The loss of venerable, lovely Spieden (J8) is the latest in a disturbing and dismal trend of vanishing matriarchs and elder females. With Spieden’s death, the Southern Resident population drops to 80. How do we save our cherished orcas?

Southern Resident orcas – arguably the most studied killer whales in the world – are vanishing before us. Despite recovery efforts by the federal government, our endangered Southern Resident population is in an alarming slump

Vashon-Maury’s Harbor seals did not get the memo that the federal government shut down on September 30. Our marine mammal partners at NOAA Fisheries were immediately furloughed, but Orca Annie’s Seal Nannies remained on duty.

On August 14, I was on the phone dealing with a seal call, gazing out at the Sound, when I saw a huge splash – and another and another, about 15 in a row

“Our neighbor is spraying a baby seal with a garden hose. That’s not right, is it?” This inquiry came from a concerned caller on Bainbridge Island, who got our phone number from off-Island stranding responders.

Harbor Seal pupping season is off to a tragic start on Vashon. On July 25, a pup recovered from the beach at Dilworth died in transport to rehab.

On June 13, 2002, a contingent of Springer’s Peeps – supporters of Kéetla/Boo/Springer the Orphan Orca -- watched with trepidation as our wee orca gal was extracted from the waters between Vashon and Fauntleroy Cove

One afternoon in early March, Miss Nashoba the jumpin’ Jack Russell took her two-leggeds for a romp along the beach. We spied Neil the Seal and his swim buddy clinging to shore, cruising east but casting frequent glances westward.

Mon dieu, what to write? A month-long dorsal drought afflicts Vashon. Most of the whale news is grim. A dead Southern Resident orca newborn stranded at Dungeness Spit in early January. California agribusiness and the Pacific Legal Foundation,

Someone at Chez VHP has uncanny Kéet karma on his birthday. He just happened to look out the window on that stormy day and see tall dorsal fins approaching.

4:40 AM, December 3: "Waa-sa-weh (a Tlingit greeting), K Pod! We thought we would hear from you a bit earlier, but you are always welcome." For several days, a configuration of J Pod, K Pod, L87, and rumored other L Pod whales traveled through Puget Sound.

The electorate at Chez VHP is not inclined to favor one of the major party candidates for president. Our constituency includes a privileged Pound Puppy

On October 18, I looked out our window and saw Chum salmon flopping about near the VHP site. Throughout the day, seals and sea lions picked off a few fish. "Excellent," I thought, "we finally have some food here for our Kéet relatives."


If anyone deserves an orca superpod on his birthday, surely our esteemed friend and VHP associate Mark Sears does. On October 8, a large group of Southern Residents traveled south in East Passage and cavorted mid-channel off Mark’s house at Lincoln Park. Alas, Mark had elaborate birthday plans with his human pod, so he was unavailable to obtain ID photos and collect samples.

While strolling along our beach on Labor Day, we nearly stumbled on the adorable baby seal in this week’s photo. The newborn pup still had fetal folds. Our small genius dog, Nashoba, was off-leash at the time. She spied the boo-boo before we did, approaching the tiny cutie in a curious, non-threatening way. Fortunately, Miss Nashoba responds to our voice commands and she stopped short of touching noses when we told her to "leave it!" To our relief, she did not scare the pup or flush her/him off the beach.

With considerable help from some observant Islanders, your VHP Coordinator responded to an unusual cetacean stranding on July 6. Bob Lane called me that morning about a deceased Harbor Porpoise on the beach at Sandy Shores. His emailed photos showed that the fresh-dead porpoise was in pristine condition -- a rarity.

Chez VHP has become collateral damage in the recession. In April, a short sale will displace us from the rental that we thought would provide stable long-term housing. We are immensely fond of the spot where we live and we do not want to move, but such is the 99 Percenters’ dilemma confronting us.

Last February, we mourned the loss of Ruffles (J1), the eldest Southern Resident male orca. This February we mourn for departed youngsters. Precious little female Sooke (L112), 2009 – 2012, stranded at Long Beach, WA on February 11 and the new calf in J Pod, J48, is missing and probably dead.

Chez VHP is recovering from a New Year’s Day medical emergency, so I am revisiting an earlier column that proved popular with my dear readers.

"Killer whales are the canoes of spirits, and if shamans are lucky, they get these spirit canoes." A Sitka villager uttered these profound words a century ago to the ethnographer James Swanton. To us (Odin and Orca Annie), killer whales are sacred. Life with orcas rejuvenates our bond with the Divine.