A killer whale nicknamed “Granny” that was born a year before the Titanic sank and is thought to be the oldest in the world has been spotted off the coast of Washington state in the Pacific Ocean.
Heather MacIntyre of the Orca Network photographed Granny and other orcas last week near False Bay in the San Juan Islands of Washington.
“We watched the J11s (J27, J31 and J39) traveling with J2 and adopted son, L87,” MacIntyre wrote. “They sure seemed to be in high spirits.”
Which is saying something for the world’s oldest orca estimated to be around 105 years old.
So how do they know J2 Granny was born a year before the Titanic went down? The Seattle PI science blog addressed that issue a couple of years ago when speaking to Michael Harris, the executive director of the Pacific Whale Watch Association.
When the study of Southern Resident orcas began in the early 1970s, they already had photos of both J1 “Ruffles” and J2 “Granny” taken in 1971 when both were already full grown adults. Orcas reach full size around the age of 20, so they made the estimated birth year for J1 Ruffles as 1951 (1971 – 20 years). Since Granny and Ruffles associated with one another, they concluded that she might be Ruffles’ mother. Since Granny was never seen with a new calf since the study began, they assumed she was post-reproductive, and that perhaps Ruffles was her last calf. Females generally stop reproducing around the age of 40, so if she had Ruffles when she was 40, her birth year would be about 1911.
Again, these are estimations from scientists that require some extrapolation, esp. with J2, but it is generally accepted that Granny was born around 1911 and that she’s now 103 years old.