Today we highlight a living legend, L25 Ocean Sun. She is currently the oldest orca in the Southern Resident population, estimated at 95 years old. Along with Tokitae/Lolita, who is still being held at the Miami Seaquarium, Ocean Sun is the only Southern Resident alive today who experienced the capture era. Imagine the horrors she witnessed as she watched dozens of orcas taken away from her community. It is possible that L25 lost immediate family members during the capture era – Tokitae is potentially a close relative but we won’t know for sure until DNA testing is done. Ocean Sun had one presumed daughter L23 who died in 1982, and her presumed grandchildren also died in the 1980s. But she now seems to enjoy playing a grandmother and caretaker role to other whales in her pod.
Read a story below about Ocean Sun babysitting young L pod members, written by naturalist and boat captain, Sara Hysong-Shimazu.
L25 "Ocean Sun" closely flanked on either side by L113 "Cousteau" and L119 "Joy" ©Sara Hysong-Shimazu.
L25 Ocean Sun
It was a foggy day out in the Strait of Juan de Fuca years ago when L119 was just about a year old and L113 was just a few years older. The group of whales known as the L12s, which is actually several different matrilines that closely associate, were foraging and socializing together. The whales were spread out in singles or in small groups and in the distance we caught sight of three fins, surfacing together.
As we drew closer we could see it was L25 "Ocean Sun" closely flanked on either side by L113 "Cousteau" and L119 "Joy". She seemed to be on babysitting duty. The younger whales were feeling a bit rambunctious, rolling around together and with their guardian as the three milled in the area, not really going anywhere that particular morning. I always find it intensely fascinating and lovely to watch some of the older whales closely associate with the youngest members of the pod. It reminds me of our own family gatherings. But eventually, just like us, we're tired of babysitting.
Ocean Sun gave a couple percussive slaps of her flukes and within a few minutes the group was joined by L77 "Matia", Joy's mother, who seemed to take charge of the young ones while Ocean Sun headed off into the fog. We later found her swimming with L41 "Mega" off a couple of miles from the rest of the family. Perhaps she was getting a bit of a break after a morning with the kids.