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Namu (killer whale)

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Namu (died July 9, 1966) was the third orca (killer whale) ever captured. He was the first healthy[1] orca to be displayed in an aquarium exhibit and was the first to perform with a human together in the water.[2] He was the subject of much media attention, including a 'starring' role in a movie, that changed some people's attitudes toward orcas.

In June 1965, William Lechkobit found a 22-foot (6.7m) male orca in his floating salmon net that had drifted close to shore near Namu, British Columbia. The orca was sold for $8,000 to Edward "Ted" Griffin, owner of the Seattle Marine Aquarium,[3] but it ultimately cost Griffin much more to transport the orca 450 miles in a floating pen to Seattle.[4] While in captivity, Namu could eat 400 pounds of salmon a day.[5] Namu was a popular attraction at the Seattle Marine Aquarium, and Griffin soon captured a female orca to be a companion for Namu. The female, named Shamu, was however soon leased and eventually sold to SeaWorld in San Diego. Namu survived just over one year in captivity and died in his pen on July 9, 1966.[6]

It was later discovered through preserved recordings of his calls that Namu was from C1 Pod,[7] one of the best known Northern Resident pods. He was thus given the alphanumeric code C11. It is suspected that the matriarch, C5, who died in 1995, was his mother.[8] As of February 2010, Namu's presumed sister Koeye (C10) is still alive.

The United Artists film Namu, the Killer Whale (a.k.a. Namu, My Best Friend) was released in 1966 and 'starred' Namu in a fictional story set in the San Juan Islands.[9] The name "Namu" was also later used as a show-name for different orcas in SeaWorld shows.[10]


  1. ^ (Wanda and Moby Doll were sick/injured when captured)
  2. ^ The National Geographic, March 1966 (page 418-446)
  3. ^ WGBH Frontline: "Edward 'Ted' Griffin, The Life and Adventures of a Man Who Caught Killer Whales". Accessed 28 March 2008
  4. ^ Whitehead, Eric, "Conversation-starved Killer In A Salmon Net" Sports Illustrated 1965 July 12. Accessed 6 June 2010.
  5. ^ Fisher, Ronald M., Namu: Making Friends with a Killer Whale, 1973, National Geographic Society
  6. ^ M. L. Lyke, "Granny's Struggle: A black and white gold rush is on", Seattle P-I, Wednesday, October 11, 2006 link Accessed 27 March 2008
  7. ^
  8. ^ Francis, Daniel and Hewlett, Gil, "Era of the Orca Cowboys" (The Tyee). Accessed 2 February 2010.
  9. ^ Film, "Namu: My Best Friend" (a.k.a. Namu the Killer Whale) at
  10. ^ 1991 Sea World, Inc. promotional photo / text

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