Elena Passarello’s column is about famous animals from history. This week: Springer the Orca.
Shit, it’s A-73!
—The biologist Graeme Ellis
Her calls were so loud they practically blew our earphones off.
—Dr. Lance Barrett-Lennard, Vancouver Aquarium
And now, months later, after forming all these groups to help fund this—working with NMFS and DFO, which has not always been easy, and people on both sides of the border—it’s like delivering a baby, and we’re about ready to pass out cigars.
—Michael Harris, the Orca Conservancy
Species: Orcinus Orca
Years Active: 2000–present
Distinguishing Features: An “open” white saddle mark; several faint scratches, perhaps from propellers, on dorsal fin
Skills: Resilience, a northern accent, an ability to disarm various mammalian species
Habitat: Puget Sound, Washington; Telegraph Cove, British Columbia; the open water
The ferry worker called her Boo. Shortly before Christmas 2001, a Department of Transportation employee noticed a very young orca hanging around the docks of Vashon Island, a residential swath of land in Puget Sound between Tacoma and Seattle. Every day as the Evergreen State ferry floated in its slip, the orca would swim beside its bow, disappearing only when the engines started. While orcas in the waters of the Pacific Northwest aren’t unusual, a solo baby orphaned orca was a reason to call the authorities.
It turned out that Boo already had a name. Two, actually. Her official catalogue moniker was A73—“A” for the matrilineal pod with which she should be traveling, and “73” because she was the seventy-third birth in A-pod since humans started tracking them. Unlike the transient pods that swim up and down the Pacific coast all year, the orcas in A-pod are resident orcas, and they spend the summer-salmon runs near the shores of Washington and British Columbia. They have their own practices, bonds, and even dialects. A northern resident A-clan orca produces calls never made by, for instance, a southern resident from J-pod. Read More