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A Sacred Matriarch’s Legacy

The Dorsal Spin
End of an Era: Granny (J2) leads her family and companion Onyx (L87) into Quartermaster Harbor. John McGrory photo, 11/3/15.
End of an Era: Granny (J2) leads her family and companion Onyx (L87) into Quartermaster Harbor. John McGrory photo, 11/3/15.

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.

On 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.” Researcher Mark Sears will be our special guest. This loving tribute to Granny and other iconic orcas is part memorial, part natural history, and part call to action.

We anticipate that J2’s passing will prove to be monumentally disruptive to her extended family. Troubling signs are already apparent. Our program explores some of the cultural and social dynamics in the Southern Resident Community.
These days, Mark Sears does not often speak on Vashon. He last contributed to our “Killer Whales in Peril” talk in 2013. For “GRANNY’S GIFT,” we invited him to share fond memories of J2 and other dearly departed orcas. He has observed dramatic changes in the Southern Residents throughout four decades of collecting data on them. Mark discovered a number of winter orca babies in Puget Sound, especially in the 1990s. Sadly, many of those whales have died too young.  
Odin created the artwork for our event poster, now on display around the Island. No, that is not a smudge -- Granny had freckles in her left eyepatch, which he captured by working from a photo of her. Odin will present a Tlingit invocation for the Kéet Shuká  at “GRANNY’S GIFT.” Kéet  (Killer Whales) are our esteemed relatives and venerated teachers.

Tickets to “GRANNY’S GIFT” are merely $8.00, available in advance at the Vashon Book Shop - no pricey service fee. Eight bucks helps to offset the costs of approximately two marine mammal stranding/seal pup calls: gas, seal signs, and other supplies. Seal pup season is around the corner. For more information, call 206-463-9041.

This week’s haunting photo represents a bygone era: Granny leading her J14 relatives into Quartermaster Harbor in November 2015. We will never see this again. Granny’s devoted companion Onyx (L87) is the large male in the foreground at right – traveling somewhat behind Granny. Onyx always had Granny’s back.

Please support the work of the Vashon Hydrophone Project (VHP): REPORT LOCAL WHALE SIGHTINGS ASAP TO 206-463-9041, as well as seal pups and sick, injured, or dead marine mammals on Island beaches. Prompt reports to the VHP expedite vital data collection efforts and sustain an accurate record of whale sightings for Vashon-Maury initiated four decades ago by Mark Sears. Send photos to Orca Annie at Vashonorcas@aol.com.