This winter we had a Social Media Blog Competition. The winner would be the person who gave us an awesome blog idea for our website. They won 2 tickets to join us for a Whale Watch but they also get to see their blog idea come to life.
Tim Bertram was the winner and his idea was the following “I think you could do a “Pod Blog” that helps explain the family units and complex relationships that exist amongst the Southern residents. Talk about the different pods and their make ups and families. It would be an oceanic version of Keeping Up With the Kardashians… only, you know, good.”
So Tim… thanks for the awesome idea! Here it is, we hope you like it!
The Southern Resident Killer Whales
Every summer, in the waters around Victoria, a special group of Orcas can be found. These are our very own Southern Residents! This population of whales is comprised of three different pods, named J, K, and L Pods. Each pod has various subgroups, usually made up of several different families or “matrilines”. Orcas will stay with their mothers for their entire lives, so each ‘family’ of whales is descended from a particular female. We keep track of each member of the Southern Resident population by assigning them two names – one with a letter and number (alpha-numeric), as well as a ‘regular’ name. The charts below are overviews for each pod detailing which whales tend to ‘hang out’ together (see Travel Group), as well as who is related to who (see Matriline).
J-Pod is led by the oldest Orca out of all the Southern Residents. At a staggering 105 years of age, Granny has been around for a long time, and is the oldest known Orca in the world. Being the matriarch, she will decide where the pod goes in search of fish!
Eclipse is well-known as the youngest member of the Southern Residents to give birth. While most Orcas don’t give birth until around 15 years of age, Eclipse had her first baby when she was only 10 years old! Eclipse’s son, Nova (J-51) was born in February of 2015, and was the second member of the Southern Residents’ baby boom.
Blackberry (J-27), Tsuchi (J-31), & Mako (J-39)
These three whales are siblings who lost their mother, Blossom (J-11), in 2008. Blackberry is one of J-pods mature males. Tsuchi’s name comes from the Japanese word for melon-headed whale, a species sometimes seen off the coast of Washington. Her younger brother Mako is named after the Japanese word for sperm whale. Mako often has play dates with another young male around his age, Cookie (J-38). Blackberry, Tsuchi, and Mako travel with the J22 and J17 family groups.
Slick is a mature female at the head of her tight-knit family group, which sometimes travels alone. She is well-known for being the oldest known mother of the Southern Residents. Slick had her latest calf at an estimated age of 43. Her daughter, Scarlet (J-50) was the first calf to be born in the Southern Residents’ baby boom of the last 2 years.
The Baby Boom!
J-pod has seen many new additions during the last 2 years’ baby boom. Beginning with Scarlet (J-50), the latest J-pod members include Nova (J-51), Sonic (J-52), and two younger calves which have not been named yet, J-53 and J-54. New calves are usually named through the Whale Museum’s “Name the Baby” contest, typically held during the summer.
At 44 years old, Sequim is the oldest member of K-Pod. Sequim was named after a Makah village on the Olympic Peninsula. She has three offspring – Sekiu (K-22), Rainshadow (K-37), and Saturna (K-43), who is the second youngest member of K-pod. Sekiu’s son, Tika (K-33), is one of the mature males of K-pod and has a very distinctive dorsal fin that makes him easier to identify.
Skagit, at 42 years of age, is the second oldest member of K-pod. She is the matriarch of her family group, which includes her four offspring, and 2 grandchildren. One of Skagit’s daughters, Spock (K-20), was thought to be a male because of her unusually tall, straight dorsal fin. In 2004, she surprised everyone by having her first calf, Comet (K-38). Deadhead (K-27) was named in honour of the passing of the lead singer of the rock band, “The Grateful Dead”. Deadhead is mother to the youngest member of K-pod, Ripple (K-44). This family group often travels separate from the rest of K-pod, and sometimes is seen with J-pod.
The L12’s are made up of several family groups. The largest of these consists of three siblings, Mega (L-41), Matia (L-77), and Calypso (L-94), and Matia & Calypso’s offspring. They travel with another small family group of Spirit (L-22) and her son, Solstice (L-89), as well as two individuals who are the last remaining members of their family groups, Ocean Sun (L-25) and Mystery (L-85).
After losing his mother in 2005, Onyx stopped travelling with L-Pod. After spending a few years with K-Pod, he has been travelling with J-Pod since 2010, and can be seen hanging out with Granny and her family group. Onyx still has a sister, Spirit (L-22) in L-Pod, so this behavior is highly unusual, as these Orcas tend to stay with their families for life.
Researchers were surprised by the birth of Surprise! in 1991, since there was a 14-year gap between her and her older sister, Nugget (L-55). Surprise had two offspring, but unfortunately lost one of them in 2012. Along with her remaining son, Pooka (L-106), she travels with Nugget and her family.
Crewser is one of the mature males of L-Pod, and is easily recognizable by his uniquely shaped dorsal fin. Crewser travels with his aunt, Ballena (L-90), as part of a large travelling group including Nugget & Surprise and their families, Racer (L-72) and her son Fluke (L-105), and another tight-knit family group headed by Marina (L-47).
L-Pod has received three new members as part of the Southern Residents’ Baby Boom! In February of 2015, Windsong (L-121) was born to Calypso (L-94). The two newest members of L-Pod are L-122 and L-123, born to Muncher (L-91) and Lapis (L-103), respectively.
That’s about it for our Pod Blog! We hope you enjoyed learning all about J, K, and L Pod. We sure enjoyed sharing our knowledge with you!