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Puget Sound Orcas and the Penn Cove Whale Capture

Some of Funk's best-known images are those documenting the capture of orcas in Whidbey Island's Penn Cove on August 8, 1970. This now infamous event was one of several captures of wild orcas that took place in and around the waters of Puget Sound during the 1960s and 1970s. 


On July 29, 1965, onlookers crowded Deception Pass bridge to witness transportation of the orca known as “Namu” from the waters of British Columbia to Seattle Marine Aquarium.  Aquarium owner Ted Griffin, together with his partner Don Goldsberry, would later orchestrate a number of whale captures in the Puget Sound, the largest being in Penn Cove in August 1970. 


On August 8, 1970, Wallie Funk documented a round-up and capture of orcas in Whidbey Island’s Penn Cove. Led by Don Goldsberry and Ted Griffin of Namu Inc., this particular event resulted in the deaths of five whales, plus the removal of seven calves from the Southern Resident Orca L Pod. Among the calves captured was the female orca often referred to as “Lolita”, still held in captivity at Miami Seaquarium. 


A scene from the Penn Cove whale capture on August 8, 1970, as female orcas and calves sought to escape separation and the surrounding nets. Whale captors had used spotter planes, speed boats and explosives to drive the orcas into Penn Cove. Public outcry against this and other captures increased as it later emerged that five orcas- one adult female and four calves - died after becoming entangled in nets.