Gaia (L78, b. 1989) was a feisty boy. He was the third of four orcas born to Grace (L2, b. @1960, one of the oldest matriarchs in L-pod). Gaia and his younger brother Wave Walker were inseparable, and often seen with their mother. It was a treat to watch these two brothers cavorting happily in the Salish Sea. Gaia was the larger of the two, had a small black area near the top of his saddle patch, and apparently had quite a liking for the ladies of J and K pods (as does his younger brother). Possibly Gaia got a bit carried away with his antics back in 2009, as he was seen that July with severe rakes across his dorsal fin. Rakes like this are usually caused by other whales – possibly by rough play, possibly as meting out discipline. Theories were tossed around as to what led to Gaia’s wounds, but no one knows what really happened. Fortunately, by the time he was spotted with the Super Pod in the Georgia Strait in August 2009, they were healing well.
In the summer of 2012, when he was just 23, Gaia went missing. His mother, Grace, disappeared shortly after that, in fall 2012. His two older siblings went missing in 2000 (Orcan, male, age 25) and 2008 (Splash, female, age 23). Only Wave Walker remains; he now travels with Ino (L54) and her family – and no doubt deeply misses his best friend and big brother, Gaia.
In honour of orca L-78, who at age 23 disappeared from the Salish Sea
Born,1989 and a number we gave you,
a sort of name, L-78. Then a better name, Gaia,
son of Grace, L-2, older brother to Wavewalker, L-88.
Important, your lineage.
But what’s in a name?
You were a male with the Great Mother’s name,
an androgyne, S/he who covers every territory,
ocean-dweller who shared the name of Earth,
large one slipping between boundaries.
What’s in a name?
You were an open-to-anything kind of whale
who stayed near Grace, your mother, the matriarch,
all your short life. Sowed your seed, played with your brother,
rough-housed with other whales until
we humans cut you short.
What do we know?
Glimpses, a year of birth – then nothing.
You disappeared, like dozens of your kin, lost
but not unmourned.
And now the most important question –
how much will we care? What shall we do to honour you,
Gaia, we will remember you.
Research: Sandy Shreve
Poem: Kate Braid
Prayer Flag: Kathy Allensen