My first week back on the island I had the privilege to meet Albert Shepard, Curator at the Whale Museum. Albert is currently working on cleaning the bones of the recently deceased young female Southern Resident killer whale L112 (Sooke/Victoria) whose body washed up on the shores of Long Beach, WA this past February. I first learned of Sooke’s death just a few short days after the news broke. Ironically, I was in the midst of packing for the Beam Reach course. In the following weeks I read articles, watched necropsies, and thought about what could have possibly happened to this young, seemingly healthy whale. After arriving on San Juan Island in March for Beam Reach I learned a lot about the investigation into Sooke’s death. There are a number of theories out there as to the cause of death, but no one is really sure as to what happened to her.
The last few months of thinking about Sooke and learning about her death were pulled together into a momentous experience when I was able to see her beautiful skeleton laying out in the sunshine at Friday Harbor Labs. Spending two afternoons with Albert, just looking at the pieces of the skeleton come together was incredible. I have been in love with orca whales since I was five years old, and seeing the structure of an orca — what gives it shape and strength and the ability to swim — was mind-boggling. I wish that I could let all of you have the same experience of admiring L112’s skeleton in all of its beauty, and someday hopefully you will get the chance. The Whale Museum is working on a display in memory of L112 that will include her skeleton. Until then, I hope these pictures will give you an idea of how beautiful and intricate Sooke’s skeletal structure really is.
For more information on Sooke and the investigation into her death please go to the following resources:
The Whale Museum