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Orca, dead in the Strait of Juan de Fuca
...Necropsy and Skeletal Mount of L51 Orca
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Orca L51 Removed From the Strait of Juan de Fuca
On the weekend of September 25, 1999 a dead female Orca was reported by a Canadian Coast Guard employee, Wayne Ingalls.

It was floating in the area of Christopher Point near Bentinck island at the eastern end of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, just adjacent to Race Rocks. On Tuesday, the 28th we were informed at Pearson College and a team of students from the diving service went out to secure the body in a small bay near the Point. The Department of National Defense staff at Rocky Point gave us permission to haul out the whale on the beach in Whirl Bay.
Divers: Hannah-from Great Britain, Jane from BC, Shamsher from BC, Santaiago from Argentina, Mikkel from Denmark, Stephanie from Manitoba help manoeuvre the carcass. Attempts were made to roll the carcass in order to get a better view of the dorsal fin to aid in identification. These pictures taken initially by Ingi were sent to Graeme Ellis of the Pacific Biological Station in Nanaimo, to assist in identification of the whale. The Orcas from the Vancouver Island and lower Gulf islands are identifiable by the shape of the dorsal fin and the gray saddle patch behind the dorsal fin.
The dorsal fin under water.
Ventral side view The students pulled the whale up on the beach as far as possible so as to have it out of the water the next day at low tide. Further advancement onto the beach was provided by a winch from the Fire Department at Rocky Point Possible evidence of a prolapsed uterus.
On Wednesday, responding to a request from Graeme Ellis, two members of the Biology staff of Lester Pearson College, Catrin Brown and Garry Fletcher and twelve volunteer students went out to assist in the dismantling of the skeleton Graeme and Ken had already made identification. The female Orca was believed to be from the L pod -- #51. Born in 1973, she has had several offspring and had given birth earlier in the year. Her calf had been spotted as late as a week ago swimming with other members of the L pod who are trying to feed it fish. It was reported to be in weakened condition, and it eventually died of starvation. Graeme was assisted by Ken Balcomb and his team from the Center for Whale Research in Friday Harbor (in the US San Juan Islands), Diane Claridge, Dave Ellifrit and Candace Emmons.
Also helping with the necropsy were Brian Gisborne of Juan de Fuca Express, Ron Bates from MMRG, Rick Cohen, A veterinarian, Peter Ross from IOS, Jennifer Poole from Malaspina University-College, and Lara Gibson, biologist. After an hour and a half of work with his assistants, considerable headway had been made in removing the skull and the blubber from the upper half of the animal. Blood and tissue samples were taken by Peter Ross, a toxicologist from the Institute of Ocean Sciences in Pat Bay.

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Biology teachers Garry Fletcher and Catrin Brown Katy from Hong Kong
Jim from Alberta Joao from Portugal Satoshi from Japan Florian from Albania,
Gaia from Italy Garry and Chin Hin from Hong Kong Mada and Katy Garry and Catrin hoist a piece of the skeleton into the boat. The bones hung suspended several months in the ocean until the marine animals cleaned them.

Post-necropsy exhaustion. Work went on until 6:00PM that evening. In that time, the whole skeleton had been separated, and most of the tissue cleared from the bones.

Thanks to PC student Ingi Finnsson for braving the aroma to take the pictures of the necropsy.
dragging bones Garry dragging the ribs to suspend from the docks so that they can be cleaned by shrimp.
Orca skeleton
The Orca skeleton suspended in Catrin Brown's Biology Lab. The mount was made by students and Hans Bauer, a former faculty member who volunteered for the job, along with Hugo Sutmoller.
Orca skeleton
Full length view from the front
Orca skeleton
Orca skeleton
Orca skeleton
View from rear Jaws Rib cage
Orca skeleton Orca skeleton Orca skeleton
Arm and hand close up. Note the pentadactyl limb Upper and lower mandibles The hyoid process under the neck.
Orca skeleton All photos are hyper-linked to larger images Our thanks to Hans Bauer and Hugo Sutmoller for assistance in mounting this skeleton.
Front right side view .G.F.Photos

A serious contaminant of Orcas in the southern Vancouver island area is PCBs. Male Orcas accumulate these chemicals throughout their life, whereas females are purported to increase in levels until a birth, whereupon the levels in the tissue drop as a result of lactation.

Link to CBC video clip of interview with Peter Ross and John Ford ( Vancouver Aquarium)

For more information on contaminants in the Orca Food web, see the following Link:

"Is Victoria Sewage Contaminating Southern Resident Killer Whales?"
A Technical Submission to the SETAC Victoria Sewage Scientific and Technical Review Panel
By Gerald Graham, Ph. D. Marine Environmental Consultant
On behalf of the T. Buck Suzuki Environmental Foundation

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