this is a safe site with no scary/negative images. though there is controversy around things like captive orcas, this is a positive page about my appreciation for them focusing on the positive.

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welcome to orca grotto... my little page to show my appreciation for the beautiful species of orcinus orca, orca, or killer whale. i'm a late-in-life animal lover and didn't figure out how cool and majestic orcas are until i saw the documentary blackfish, directed by gabriela cowperthwaite.

it's seriously one of my life dreams to see orcas in the wild. i can't imagine how breathtaking it would be!!!!

as with all the pages here on secret cottage, it's humble and always under construction but i hope to keep adding kool orca resources and links.

did you know?

  orcas are said to symbolize family, romance, longevity, harmony, travel, community and protection

  the reason for orcas' markings is camoflauge. from above, they are less visible as they appear solid black. from below, their white markings camoflauge them with the water's surface.

  relationships between orcas and humans date back as early as the roman times. though orcas are apex predators, they are not considered dangerous to humans.

  female killer whales are called "cows" and have a smaller, curved dorsal fin which measures about 3 feet. male killer whales are called "bulls" and their dorsal fins can grow up to 6 feet and are not curved.

  there's a type of dolphin called "false killer whale"

  orcas have very strong family bonds. killer whale mothers care for their calves for at least a year. calves are born tail-first and can be pulled along by swimming close to their mothers and riding the "wave."

  white and light grey orcas have been spotted in hokkaido, japan, russia, and the pacific northwest of USA. it's theorized this may be caused by chediak-higashi syndrome, albinism, or leucism. (photo from the ahasi shimbun)
  two interesting behaviors killer whales can be spotted doing are called lobtailing and spyhopping. lobtailing is when an orca raises its flukes (the "tail" on its end,) waves it back and forth, then slaps its flukes on the surface of the water. spyhopping is when an orca points its head straight out of the water, then sinks without making a splash.

  there are both "transient" and "resident" orca pods. transient pods travel long distances and hunt large animals like seals, porpoises, and other whales. resident pods, who mostly eat fish, stay put and don't travel large distances.

what is the experience of swimming with orcas like?

all sources i could find describe that swimming with orcas is a humbling and life-changing experience. of swimming with orcas, the free-diver arthur guérin-boëri said “when they look, they really stare. they stare at your eyes, and at that moment you just hope this isn’t the one orca who wants to play with you a bit.”

a new zealand woman named judie johnson was approached by three orcas while swimming and felt comfortable enough with them to get back in the water to swim with them again. i thought the following quote from her vividly demonstrates the curiosity of orcas approaching humans in the wild: "the big one kept looking at my toes. i had nail polish on and i was thinking, 'i wonder if they can actually see colour?' and, "i wonder if it's going to nibble my toes?'"

  orcas use echolocation to hunt. by making sounds like clicking, they send out sound which hits their prey and returns to tell the whale where the prey is exactly. most amazingly, scientists think that orcas learn echolocation as a skill rather than know how to use it instinctually.

  below, see frédérique lucas's representation of what an orca's eye looks like

  beneath a killer whale's skin is 3-4 inches of blubber, fatty tissue used to keep the whale warm in cold climates. they can also survive from their blubber in times when they can't find food.

what would it feel like to touch an orca?

orca skin is smooth, rubbery, and thin. sea trips reykjavík describes it as similar to peeled hard-boiled egg, lubricated rubber, or a human's shaved thigh muscle.

famous orcas


tragic star of blackfish, he is in a better place now and contributed to larger knowledge that orcas cannot be kept in captivity

star of free willy and was actually freed himself in 2002 due to public outcry inspired by free willy, passed away in 2003.

also known as J-2, she is the oldest known orca at 105 years old. she was born around 1911 and passed away in 2016.

the first intentional live capture of a healthy orca, captive at seaworld from 1965 to 1971. more of seaworld's orcas were named shamu after her.
old tom

22 foot long orca known to whalers on the port of eden, NSW. the killer whale museum was established after his death in 1930.

she lived in captivity at miami seaquarium and died in august 2023, subject of the documentary lolita: slave to entertainment

unfortunately, many famous orcas are famous for being in unjustly captured and kept in captivity. i hope that they could inspire people to take interest in orcas so that the future can be better for such an amazing species. i feature them here out of respect.

orca movies

namu, the killer whale

1966, dir. laslo benedek

1977, dir. michael anderson
free willy

1993, dir. simon wincer
lolita: slave to entertainment

2003, dir. tim gorski
the whale

2011, dir. suzanne chisholm

2013, dir. gabriela cowperthwaite

links to read about orcas

  facts about orcas by whale and dolphin conservation
  orca - wikipedia
  captive orcas - wikipedia
  list of captive orcas - wikipedia
  list of individual cetaceans - wikipedia
  native american killer whale mythology (orca or blackfish)
  (VIDEO) 子供と遊ぶシャチの親子【名古屋港水族館2012】
  (VIDEO) how orcas are a natural predator of moose
  violent incidents between humans and orcas in captivity from free morgan

orca adoptables

blinkies made by me

credits for this page

  seven famous killer whales by orca spirit adventures
  5 famous killer whales known for strange, unlikely, or depressing circumstances
  killer whales and other toothed whales from world book's animals of the world series, 2006

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