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Content about The Dorsal Spin

May 10, 2017

Help us close out Earth Month with an Indigenous tribute to an Orca Legend. Saturday, April 29, 2:00 PM, at the Ober Park Performance Room, Orca Annie and Odin unveil “GRANNY’S GIFT - J2: A Sacred Matriarch’s Legacy.” Their special guest is researcher Mark Sears.

Help us close out Earth Month with an Indigenous tribute to an Orca Legend. Saturday, April 29, 2:00 PM, at the Ober Park Performance Room, Orca Annie and Odin unveil “GRANNY’S GIFT - J2: A Sacred Matriarch’s Legacy.” Their special guest is researcher Mark Sears. The presenters have decades of experience in local orca conservation, research, and educational outreach. Tickets are $8.00, available in advance at the Vashon Book Shop.

April 24, 2017

With the shattering deaths of their matriarch extraordinaire J2 and nine others in 2016, our vanishing tribe of endangered Southern Resident Orcas is on the precipice of oblivion. Will the distracted humans continue to squander Granny’s legacy? Only 78 whales remain in J, K, and L Pods - something to ponder during Earth Month.

With the shattering deaths of their matriarch extraordinaire J2 and nine others in 2016, our vanishing tribe of endangered Southern Resident Orcas is on the precipice of oblivion. Will the distracted humans continue to squander Granny’s legacy? Only 78 whales remain in J, K, and L Pods - something to ponder during Earth Month.

January 18, 2017

So many tears; so much heartache and mourning in 2016. In a malicious parting shot, the final devastating blow was struck in late December of the *Deplorable* Year: Granny (J2) is gone, missing since October.

So many tears; so much heartache and mourning in 2016. In a malicious parting shot, the final devastating blow was struck in late December of the *Deplorable* Year: Granny (J2) is gone, missing since October. Words are insufficient to address the profound loss of our inimitable, beloved Granny (J2). A few appellations for Granny: Supreme Matriarch, Culture Bearer, Orca Sage, Clan Leader, Wisdom Keeper, Legacy Builder – J2 is and was all of these and more.

December 7, 2016

This morning the cat gingerly, tenderly, on little cat feet, balanced on top of my radio and inserted his head into the dog biscuit bag, and came out with a dog biscuit in his mouth. He carefully backed off the radio and over to the hutch where I feed him, broke the biscuit up with his teeth, and ate it.

This morning the cat gingerly, tenderly, on little cat feet, balanced on top of my radio and inserted his head into the dog biscuit bag, and came out with a dog biscuit in his mouth. He carefully backed off the radio and over to the hutch where I feed him, broke the biscuit up with his teeth, and ate it.

July 20, 2016

During our six-day stay on San Juan Island in June, Southern Resident orcas were nowhere to be found. The west side of the island was a lonely place without J, K and L Pods. Sure, Transient killer whales and a few Minke whales swam by, but June is customarily the time when Residents do the West Side Shuffle. Except for kayaks and commercial shipping traffic, Haro Strait looked empty.

During our six-day stay on San Juan Island in June, Southern Resident orcas were nowhere to be found. The west side of the island was a lonely place without J, K and L Pods. Sure, Transient killer whales and a few Minke whales swam by, but June is customarily the time when Residents do the West Side Shuffle. Except for kayaks and commercial shipping traffic, Haro Strait looked empty. Researcher Bob Otis logged an unprecedented number of zeroes on his June whale days chart – a dubious distinction in 27 years of data collection.

May 11, 2016

Like bears emerging from hibernation, we are a bit grumpy and out of sorts at Chez VHP. Papa Bear has a busted eye tooth that requires an extraction or a root canal. This tooth is one of the most examined and x-rayed choppers in the world! Papa Bear is inclined to have it pulled so he can just be done with it.

Like bears emerging from hibernation, we are a bit grumpy and out of sorts at Chez VHP. Papa Bear has a busted eye tooth that requires an extraction or a root canal. This tooth is one of the most examined and x-rayed choppers in the world! Papa Bear is inclined to have it pulled so he can just be done with it. Baby Bear Nashoba is on constant vigil for the stinky otters who are trying to den under her porch. Mama Bear is bummed out, wishing for a moratorium on the deaths of loved ones and cultural icons.

February 3, 2016

I readily admit that I am not a graceful griever. The one-year anniversary of my beloved Mother’s death is imminent, and I have been in a funk for weeks, all cranky and isolated for fear of snapping at someone unintentionally.

I readily admit that I am not a graceful griever. The one-year anniversary of my beloved Mother’s death is imminent, and I have been in a funk for weeks, all cranky and isolated for fear of snapping at someone unintentionally. Moreover, I have a bone to pick with The Management for robbing humanity of artists vital to the cultural landscape, at least here at Chez VHP: “ I, I wish I could swim/Like dolphins/Like dolphins can swim  . . .”*

November 24, 2015

Once again, our venerated Southern Resident killer whales provided much material for this news cycle. Prospective subject matter for this column included “Resident orcas penetrate Quartermaster Harbor for the first time in recent memory,” or “Late breaking: L Pod matrilines off West Seattle.”

Once again, our venerated Southern Resident killer whales provided much material for this news cycle. Prospective subject matter for this column included “Resident orcas penetrate Quartermaster Harbor for the first time in recent memory,” or “Late breaking: L Pod matrilines off West Seattle.”

November 11, 2015

Our cherished orcas, both Residents and Transients, are certainly newsworthy of late. With six babies and an extraordinary journey up to Springer’s homeland, or Northern Resident traditional territory, the Southern Residents have generated a plethora of news. I will start locally, however, with a remarkable Transient encounter.

Our cherished orcas, both Residents and Transients, are certainly newsworthy of late. With six babies and an extraordinary journey up to Springer’s homeland, or Northern Resident traditional territory, the Southern Residents have generated a plethora of news. I will start locally, however, with a remarkable Transient encounter.

September 16, 2015

This morning, I watched a seal pup casually floating on her back, with hind flippers flexed, drifting gently in a Salish Sea current. A few gulls kept her company. On Vashon-Maury, we can expect to see Harbor seal pups – newborns and “weaners” --into early October.

This morning, I watched a seal pup casually floating on her back, with hind flippers flexed, drifting gently in a Salish Sea current. A few gulls kept her company. On Vashon-Maury, we can expect to see Harbor seal pups – newborns and “weaners” --into early October. Chez VHP’s summer travel schedule interrupted our work as stranding responders and delayed dissemination of our annual Seal Pup 101 information.

July 22, 2015

Granny (J2) perpetually blows my mind. Granny, of course, is our supreme Southern Resident orca matriarch. Previously, J2’s birth year was estimated to be 1911, but recent genetic testing shows she is more likely of the same vintage as fellow elder matriarch Ocean Sun (L25), born circa 1928.

Granny (J2) perpetually blows my mind. Granny, of course, is our supreme Southern Resident orca matriarch. Previously, J2’s birth year was estimated to be 1911, but recent genetic testing shows she is more likely of the same vintage as fellow elder matriarch Ocean Sun (L25), born circa 1928. Whether she is closer to 87 or 104, Granny rocks! Discover why Granny rocks at the VHP’s exhibit for Vashon-Maury Low Tide Celebration on Sunday, August 2.

June 9, 2015

The weeks around Mother’s Day, the first one after my mother’s death, bordered on unbearable this year. Distraught and preoccupied were the operative modes. On May 18, I was on a major bummer -- profoundly sad and missing my mother intensely.

The weeks around Mother’s Day, the first one after my mother’s death, bordered on unbearable this year. Distraught and preoccupied were the operative modes. On May 18, I was on a major bummer -- profoundly sad and missing my mother intensely. Odin, Nashoba and I did what we typically do for relief: seek refuge in Mother Nature. We went outside to take in the early evening vista -- the thunderclouds over Tahoma, the acrobatics of our Rufous and Anna’s Hummingbird families, the smell of salal, and . . .

April 17, 2015

This Earth Month, we have four Southern Resident orca babies to celebrate -- cautiously. Technically, the calves are not included in the census until they have survived one year. With roughly 50% mortality in the first year, not all four newborns may survive.

This Earth Month, we have four Southern Resident orca babies to celebrate -- cautiously. Technically, the calves are not included in the census until they have survived one year. With roughly 50% mortality in the first year, not all four newborns may survive. At either 78 or 82 counting the babies, the number of Southern Residents is still distressingly low, and their population remains critically endangered.

March 28, 2015

Matriarchy and mortality are recurring themes in my Loop articles. Typically, I attempt to decipher the potential ramifications of births and deaths in Southern Resident orca matrilines. I fret most about the impact on surviving podmates when mature, elder females die.

Matriarchy and mortality are recurring themes in my Loop articles. Typically, I attempt to decipher the potential ramifications of births and deaths in Southern Resident orca matrilines. I fret most about the impact on surviving podmates when mature, elder females die. In 2015 thus far, I have been preoccupied with the untimely demise of my own mother. I am struggling to make sense of how Mom’s surviving “podmates” will get by without her.

January 26, 2015

Mother Slick (J16) is an exceptional J Pod matriarch. 1972 is her estimated year of birth – that is significant because she could be slightly younger or even older. A preponderance of photographic evidence shows that Slick is the Southern Resident Baby Mama of precious newborn female J50. In four decades of field studies, J16 is the only known Southern Resident female to give birth to a thriving calf at age 43-ish.

Mother Slick (J16) is an exceptional J Pod matriarch. 1972 is her estimated year of birth – that is significant because she could be slightly younger or even older. A preponderance of photographic evidence shows that Slick is the Southern Resident Baby Mama of precious newborn female J50. In four decades of field studies, J16 is the only known Southern Resident female to give birth to a thriving calf at age 43-ish.

December 21, 2014

On December 26, 1995, Mark Sears spent the day tracking an elusive J Pod. With his own children in tow, Mark and the Sears Pod circumnavigated Vashon-Maury. Near Blake Island, the Sears Pod finally caught up with J Pod.

On December 26, 1995, Mark Sears spent the day tracking an elusive J Pod. With his own children in tow, Mark and the Sears Pod circumnavigated Vashon-Maury. Near Blake Island, the Sears Pod finally caught up with J Pod. Tucked in delicately with Tahoma’s gorgeous family, the J10 matriline, was an adorable “spanker” – a term of endearment for a newborn. The baby orca snuggled up to her lovely mother, Ewok (J20). That baby was Rhapsody (J32), and she was radiant.

December 7, 2014

Raven was building a PowerPoint slide show when all hell broke loose. It seems that Raven offended the little helpers who keep the lights on and the email sending smoothly. At the last minute, Raven invited Rabbit and Coyote, his Trickster compadres, to the shindig.

Raven was building a PowerPoint slide show when all hell broke loose. It seems that Raven offended the little helpers who keep the lights on and the email sending smoothly. At the last minute, Raven invited Rabbit and Coyote, his Trickster compadres, to the shindig. Those two chased each other around the lodge, running through the slides and shuffling the order.

November 13, 2014

In observance of Native American Heritage Month, we -- Orca Annie and Odin Lonning -- will present “THE SACRED WHALE: Requiem for Ruffles (J1),” on Thursday, November 20, at 7:00 PM in the Vashon Land Trust Building.

In observance of Native American Heritage Month, we -- Orca Annie and Odin Lonning -- will present “THE SACRED WHALE: Requiem for Ruffles (J1),” on Thursday, November 20, at 7:00 PM in the Vashon Land Trust Building. Though we will provide an update on the status of our endangered Southern Resident killer whales, we intend for this year’s talk to be primarily a loving reflection on Ruffles and other Resident orcas, past and present.

November 3, 2014

Our endangered Resident orcas brought a glorious October Surprise to Vashon when about 60 of them graced us with a visit on October 17. They traveled south to Point Robinson in the morning and then, as is typical in early fall, they did the East Passage shuffle and turned north again by afternoon.

Our endangered Resident orcas brought a glorious October Surprise to Vashon when about 60 of them graced us with a visit on October 17. They traveled south to Point Robinson in the morning and then, as is typical in early fall, they did the East Passage shuffle and turned north again by afternoon.

That was my lead until I got confirmation of the dismal news I feared -- another blow to Southern Resident orca recovery. Much of L Pod had been out to sea for a week or so. The grim clues started to emerge when the orcas visited Puget Sound.

August 1, 2014

At Chez VHP the other day, we heard loud bleating through an open window. We popped outside to ascertain who the unhappy camper was. A few feet from shore, a newborn Harbor Seal pup paddled frantically and yowled for Mom. Mama was away from Baby, and l’enfant did not like that at all.
 

At Chez VHP the other day, we heard loud bleating through an open window. We popped outside to ascertain who the unhappy camper was. A few feet from shore, a newborn Harbor Seal pup paddled frantically and yowled for Mom. Mama was away from Baby, and l’enfant did not like that at all. Fortunately, Mother Seal responded promptly to her needy youngster – crisis averted.

April 23, 2014

Earth Month brought an orca bloom to Vashon. Multiple groups of killer whales visited Island waters. In mid-April, two distinct ecotypes traversed the territory, gingerly avoiding each other.

Earth Month brought an orca bloom to Vashon. Multiple groups of killer whales visited Island waters. In mid-April, two distinct ecotypes traversed the territory, gingerly avoiding each other. Southern Resident K Pod commuted through Colvos Pass while Transients meandered through East Pass. Late in the day on April 14, both ecotypes were in the Tacoma Narrows, separated by mere hours.

April 11, 2014

Since the Southern Residents left us in January, Vashon-Maury waters have been drearily devoid of tall dorsal fins. That changed on April 4, when ten or more Transient killer whales blazed down the Sound from Edmonds. In East Passage, NOAA researchers clocked one male in the group

Since the Southern Residents left us in January, Vashon-Maury waters have been drearily devoid of tall dorsal fins. That changed on April 4, when ten or more Transient killer whales blazed down the Sound from Edmonds. In East Passage, NOAA researchers clocked one male in the group, T102, at 12 km per hour. A solitary female dragged a seal for 20 minutes. What became of the hapless seal is unclear.

March 28, 2014

Mustelid mania overcomes our Jack Russell terrier, Nashoba, when she detects Ono the Otter scampering under our deck with a juicy flounder or other succulent prey item. Nashoba whimpers and snorts at the floor above the spot where the river otter hides. This can be challenging when it happens at 3:00 AM.

Mustelid mania overcomes our Jack Russell terrier, Nashoba, when she detects Ono the Otter scampering under our deck with a juicy flounder or other succulent prey item. Nashoba whimpers and snorts at the floor above the spot where the river otter hides. This can be challenging when it happens at 3:00 AM.

March 26, 2014

I write this on the sorrowful anniversary of Tsu’xiit/Luna’s death. Hail pounds the roof, as it did on the day Luna died. Tsu’xiit left his earth swim during a freaky, powerful thunderstorm. Killed on March 10, 2006 at the tender age of 6½,

I write this on the sorrowful anniversary of Tsu’xiit/Luna’s death. Hail pounds the roof, as it did on the day Luna died. Tsu’xiit left his earth swim during a freaky, powerful thunderstorm. Killed on March 10, 2006 at the tender age of 6½, luminous Luna (L98) – enchanting film star of “The Whale” and “Saving Luna” – has been dead now longer than he was alive.