Today the Center for Whale Research issued a statement declaring the three missing southern resident killer whales are now deceased. Three. One from each pod (J, K and L). One of those whales was J17—famous for carrying her dead calf on her head in mourning for 17 days last year.
I am currently working on an installation of this population. 76 was the number that I wrote down to make a few months ago. 76 orca. Every time I have created an artwork about this population the number has been different. Earlier this year I showed an installation with 74 orca. During the exhibition the population count increased to 75 because a calf was born. A year prior the installation contained 76, and the year before that 78. I have prepared 76 orca for my installation next month. Now I am taking three away. One up, one down seems easier to understand, but to take three away from an already small number seems drastic. At least to me it does. It is hard to think that those whales will never make it to the exhibition. This is a physical reminder to me of the fragility of this species.
For more information about this breaking story, check out the Center for Whales Research website where they have issued the statement here. Also, here is an interview with Center for Whale Research founder Ken Balcomb.