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Posts Tagged ‘Washington State Ferries’

First Olympic class ferry shares name with an orca

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

A female killer whale named Tokitae remains in an aquarium in Miami, but a future Washington state ferry will carry her name for years to come.

The Washington State Transportation Commission named two new ferries today, choosing Northwest Indian names. And both names — Tokitae and Samish — are associated with killer whales, said Howard Garrett of Orca Network, who attended the commission meeting. See the WDOT’s news release (PDF 29 kb).

Tokitae will be the name of the first Olympic Class ferry.
Rendering courtesy of Washington DOT

“I was reserving excitement until it happened,” Howie told me. “Then it was, ‘Wow, they really did this!’ I am reinvigorated with all the feeling of support.”

Garrett is leading an effort to return Tokitae — known in Miami as “Lolita” — to the waters of Puget Sound, where her extended family still lives. See “Proposal to retire the orca known as Lolita.”

He says naming the ferry could indirectly help the cause of relocating Lolita/Tokitae, although the action carries no endorsement of any kind.

“It demonstrates an understanding and awareness of her predicament, and it honors her and her family,” he said. “I think that goes a long way.”

The second ferry was named for “Samish,” which means “giving people.” It is the name of a tribe that once ranged from Northern Puget Sound into the Cascade Mountains. It’s also the name for J-14, a 38-year-old female orca who became a grandmother in August.

So, if the ferry Tokitae is named for an orca, where did the orca get her name?

The answer to that question goes back to 1970, when a veterinarian from Miami’s Seaquarium, Jesse White, came to Seattle to select an orca to be trained for public viewing.

“He had a couple to choose from, and he chose this young female,” explained his daughter, Lisa White Baler. “They really bonded right away.”

As Lisa tells it, her dad saw something special in the young whale and wanted a name that would fit the orca’s beauty, courage and gentleness.

“He was in a gift store, probably buying gifts for myself and my brother when he saw something with ‘Tokitae’ on it … and he decided that had to be her name.”

The Coast Salish greeting means, “nice day, pretty colors,” according to the ferry-naming proposal (PDF 68 kb) submitted by Orca Network.

When the young whale arrived in Miami, the owners of the aquarium decided to change her name to Lolita.

Howard Garrett says it was one way to divest the animal of her history, allowing people to believe that she was just taken off a shelf, not captured from the open waters of Puget Sound. As the story goes, the name Lolita was chosen because she would become the young bride of an older male killer whale named Hugo, also from Puget Sound. (Check out the Wikipedia summary of the Vladimir Nabokov novel.) The two orcas performed in shows together until Hugo died in 1980.

Lisa says her father, while serving as staff veterinarian, argued that the marine mammals at the aquarium needed bigger quarters. Later in life, her father got to know researcher Ken Balcomb, a San Juan Island resident who was studying the orca families. Dr. White came to support Lolita’s return to Puget Sound, according to Lisa.

Lisa, who was born in 1966, says she recently realized that she is the same age as Tokitae/Lolita, and she is especially thrilled for the ferry to be named after the whale.

“I grew up with her,” she said. “My father died in 1996, and so much of his legacy is left for me to deal with. I am thrilled and excited for all the people who have become Toki’s champions.”

In Miami, Lisa said, trainers still use the name “Tokitae” or “Toki” when working behind the scenes; she’s only “Lolita” for an audience. Some of the trainers signed the petition to name the ferry after her.

Lisa said she would like to visit Puget Sound when the new ferry is launched or at the time of an official naming ceremony. She says she feels a special pull to this area.

Howard Garrett says he reluctantly uses the name “Lolita” in his campaign to bring her back, because that is the name the public knows.

“Tokitae is her Northwest name,” he said, “and this (new ferry name) helps connect her to her family. The minute she touches her home waters, she loses ‘Lolita.’”


Killer whales have been in and out of Puget Sound

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

The three pods of Southern Resident killer whales have been in and out of Puget Sound the past few weeks, according to reports from Orca Network and the Center for Whale Research.

Today, people began reporting sightings of the killer whales from the Bainbridge Island ferry before 9 a.m. Apparently, there were lots of orcas and spread out, as folks began seeing them about the same time in Seattle’s Elliott Bay, according to reports from Orca Network.

By 10:30 a.m.,they were between West Seattle and Vashon Island. They continued south and reached about the halfway point on Vashon Island about 12:30 p.m., when they turned around and headed back north, according to reports. Some whales may have continued south around the southern tip of Vashon Island and came back north through Colvos Passage, as five or six whales were spotted near the Southworth Ferry Terminal about 5 p.m.

Below are videos taken from news helicopters over Elliott Bay in the morning, top from KOMO-4 and bottom from KING-5.


Orca Network wants ferry to be named ‘Tokitae’

Friday, April 30th, 2010

Today is the last day to propose a name for the new 64-car ferry now under construction by the Washington State Ferries. The names are to be narrowed down, if necessary, in the coming days with a decision coming in June.

Our friends at Orca Network have proposed the name “Tokitae” and are conducting an on-line petition campaign to garner support for this name, which relates to the last living Puget Sound orca being held in captivity.

Here’s the petition at ThePetitionSite.com, and here’s the rationale provided by Howard Garrett and Susan Berta of Orca Network:

“Tokitae” is a Coast Salish greeting meaning “Nice day, pretty colors”, and is also the name given to an orca captured at Penn Cove, near Keystone, in 1970. Tokitae was brought to a marine park in Miami 40 years ago, where she was put into service as an entertainer, and named Lolita. She is the last survivor of the 45 Southern Resident orcas captured in WA state during the capture era of the 1960s and 70s. Such captures were later banned in Washington State waters in 1976.

Orca Network would like everyone to sign the petition by the end of the day today, but if “Tokitae” makes the finals, I believe there will be time to express support for your favorite

Some other good names also have been proposed on the naming website.

“Salish” from San Juan County Council: “’Salish’ refers to the Coast Salish people of Washington, British Columbia, and Oregon and is also the geographical name of the inland marine sea comprised of Juan de Fuca Strait, the Strait of Georgia, and the Puget Sound.”

“Al-ki” from Town of Friday Harbor: “’Al-ki’ is the Washington State Motto meaning ‘By and By.’”

“Kulshan” from Town of Friday Harbor: “’Kulshan’ is a name given to Mount Baker by indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest, meaning ‘White sentinel’ (ie: ‘mountain’).”

“Lushoot” from Town of Friday Harbor: “’Lushoot,’ short for ‘Lushoot-seed,’ is a member of the Salish language family, whose approximately twenty surviving languages are spoken from northern Oregon to central British Columbia, and from the Pacific Coast eastward into Montana and along the British Columbia-Alberta border.”

If you would like to comment on any of these names or offer your own, you may e-mail the Washington Department of Transportation.


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"In the end, we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught."Baba Dioum, Senegalese conservationist

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