Sooke (L-112), a 3 year old Orca whale washed ashore in a place aptly named Cape Disappointment near the Long Beach peninsula, Washington, on February 11th, 2012. The Whale Museum asked NOAA if they could have her remains. “Being able to bring Sooke back to the waters which are the center of her home range for a large portion of the year is a thrill,” states Jenny Atkinson, Director of the Whale Museum. The Whale Museum is part of the collaborative research team that performed the necropsy trying to identify the cause of her death. Her head and right side of her body showed signs of blunt trauma. Sooke is now part of an educational exhibit about her life, her family and responsible environmental stewardship. Atkinson wants to engage the public in active stewardship to help protect these remarkable animals for future generations and to prevent further tragedies like that of Sooke. As the theories surrounding her death unfold and move from speculation to fact, the exhibit will keep museum visitors apprised of the researchers’ findings.
The museum plans on suspending Sooke’s skeleton on a pulley system on the first floor of the museum so that she could be seen close up by visitors. The suspension part of the exhibit has been delayed a few months. Orca whales “off gas” as the fat in their bones decompose. In order to spare visitors this somewhat offensive olfactory experience, she has been encased in glass until this process finishes. Her skeleton was articulated by Albert Shepard. Curators regularly check her progress and when they deem her “finished”, she will be lifted to the ceiling to assume her permanent swimming position. Next to her skeleton will be a full scale model of her, fully clothed, complete with saddle patches, that are unique to each whale used by scientists for identification. The model is being created by Matthew Gray Palmer, a public art sculptor specializing in natural science and conservation.
A member of the Southern Resident Community of Orcas (current estimate of 84 whales in the population), Sooke belonged to an immediate family of ten whales. She is survived by her mother, Surprise! (L-86), her older brother, Pooka (L-106), 2 aunts, Nugget (L-55) and Ophelia (L-27), 4 cousins, Lapis (L-103), Kasatka (L-82), Takoda (L-109), Jade (L-118), and second cousin Finn (L-116). When visiting the museum you can also view Moclips (L-8). He is from the same family or acoustic group meaning they speak the same language. The museum is open daily from 10-5 p.m.