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Orca calves are given names for the first time

The votes are in, and three young killer whales born into the Southern Resident community in 2010 and 2011 have officially been given names by The Whale Museum.

The newly named babies are: Ripple (K-44), Keta (L-117), and Jade (L-118).

Ripple (K-44)

Getting a name means an orca calf has survived through its first year, a period of high mortality among killer whales.

Naming involves nominations for likely monikers followed by voting, which this year generated about 5,000 votes.

Here’s some info behind the names and the animals themselves. Thanks go to Jeanne Hyde and The Whale Museum for the photos and comments about the youngsters:

Ripple: The definition of ripple means “to form or display little undulations or waves on the surface.” It is also the name of an island located in the San Juan Islands. Though a ripple and Ripple Island may both be small, young Ripple will hopefully grow to leave large ripples on the surface of the water.

Ripple, born in 2011, is the first offspring of Deadhead (K-27). He was first seen early in the morning, along the west side of San Juan Island, traveling in his mother’s slipstream. Ripple’s grandmother is Skagit (K-13). He has one cousin Comet (K-38), one aunt, Spock (K-20), and two uncles, Scoter (K-25) and Cali (K-34). Kitsap Sun, July 7, 2011.

Keta (L-117)

Keta: Keta is another word for chum salmon, a fish the Southern Residents feed on in the fall. One of Keta’s brothers is named Coho (L-108), another type of salmon the whales occasionally eat. Another brother is named Indigo (L-100).

Keta was born in December 2010 to Ino (L-54), who was born in 1977. Keta’s sex has not yet been determined. Kitsap Sun, Dec. 8, 2010.

Jade: Jade is a gem stone. Jade’s mother, Nugget (L-55), and one sister, Lapis (L-103), have gem stone names. Jade was first seen on May 29, 2011, as several L Pod family groups traveled south through Trincomali Channel, B.C. They had arrived from the north, which is not common for them. In addition to Lapis, Jade has two living siblings, Kasatka (L-82) Takoda (L-109). Jade’s sex is still unknown.

Jade (L-118)

These three orcas are now ready for “adoption,” a fund-raising promotion by The Whale Museum, as explained in a news release issued yesterday:

“The Orca Adoption Program was started in the spring of 1984. The rationale behind the creation of the adoption program was that if each orca were given a name and history, people would understand its unique personality and complex social relationships, and form a connection to the whales.

“At the time the Orca Adoption program was created, a congressional bill to ban live captures of killer whales was pending; it subsequently passed. Today, thousands of people know Granny (J-2), Oreo (J-22) and other Southern Resident orcas through the Orca Adoption Program.

“An Orca Adoption is a wonderful way to connect with these magnificent orcas. Symbolically adopting a whale in the Southern Resident Community also supports the mission of The Whale Museum which, since 1979, has been promoting stewardship of whales and the Salish Sea eco-system through education and research. In addition to providing exhibits and the Orca Adoption Program, the Museum provides programs including: the Soundwatch Boater Education, Marine Naturalist Training, San Juan Islands Marine Mammal Stranding Network and the Whale Hotline. For information, visit The Whale Museum website.”

Will Salish Sea killer whales each get two names?

UPDATE, Nov. 24, 2010
Sometimes it takes a vacation to catch up on things. I always intended to list the new names given by the Whale Museum in this entry. I’m only two months late, after more than 7,500 votes were counted. Nevertheless, here are the new names as announced in a Sept. 15 news release:

J-44: The Whale Museum’s name is “Moby.” Other alternatives were “Kellett” and “Fin.” Ken Balcomb did not announce a name for this one.

J-46: “Star” is the name chosen by Ken, and Whale Museum voters concurred. Other options were “Galaxy” and “Dubhe.”

L-112: “Sooke” will be the name listed by the Whale Museum. Ken had already named her Victoria. The Whale Museum also proposed “ReJoyce” and “Wonder.”

L-113: Ken named her Molly. Whale Museum voters chose “Cousteau.” “Haro” and “Talise” were other alternatives.

I still have not decided whether to list one or both names in my stories or simply call them by their alpha-numeric designations.

Ken Balcomb, who heads the Center for Whale Research on San Juan Island, has announced new names for six young killer whales that frequent the Salish Sea.

Balcomb’s names apparently will be different from names chosen by the Whale Museum, which has traditionally named the orcas. Could this cause confusion among those interested in whale families?

Since the 1970s, the Center for Whale Research has kept a census of the whales, designating new calves with a letter for their pod (J, K or L), along with the next available number in sequence. Until last year, when Ken named one young orca “Star,” the naming process was left up to the Whale Museum, based in Friday Harbor. See Water Ways, Nov. 19.

By the way, the Whale Museum is currently conducting a public vote to name four killer whales as part of its Orca Adoption Program. Check out the Whale Museum’s site.

Ken told me that people may choose to use his names, or not, as they wish, but he intends to list the names with their designations for identification purposes. As he stated in a blog entry announcing the names:
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