An endangered orca was spotted Wednesday still clinging to her dead and decomposing calf, more than two weeks after her newborn died in what scientists have said is an “unprecedented” showing of grief.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration told Q13FOX the department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada spotted the whale known as J35 carrying the calf near the tip of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula.
The whale was first spotted carrying the calf on her nose and in her mouth on July 24. Biologists from the Center for Whale Research investigated and found the calf was only briefly alive and has since been decomposing.
Ken Balcomb, the founder of the Center for Whale research, previously told Q13FOX that J35’s actions were a “tour of grief” and that the mother’s actions were “unprecedented.”
An audio recording, believed to be the mother orca taken earlier this month, featured calls that were “mournful and prominent,” according to Q13FOX. Images of the mother clinging to the dead calf have struck an emotional chord across the world.
Besides the mother, researchers with Fisheries and Ocean Canada spotted another member of the same pod on Wednesday, 3 ½-year old whale known as J50, who is emaciated.
A team of experts led by NOAA Fisheries have been searching for the young whale to assess her health and potentially give her medication.