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A World War Victim


Holland is not a country that is known for its killer whales. Other than having some in captivity over the years and a lost whale found near the coast (Morgan), there is no history with living orcas. A lot of people don't know that Holland did have stranded whales throughout the years though. Old records show that on several beaches of The Netherlands orcas have been found as well as fossils of killer whale bones.


The first record of a stranded orca dates back to 1783. On the beach of Domburg (a city in the south-west of the country) a pregnant female was found. According to some stories the adult female was cut up for its meat. The fetus however was prepared and displayed at a museum in Middelburg where it remains to this day. Over the years more than 30 killer whales were found on beaches around Holland and while some of the remains would be collected for museums, others would be lost. It wasn't until august 1968 that the Dutch could see a life orca in their country for the first time.


Captured in the waters of Malcolm Island, Canada a young male killer whale was sold to the Dolfinarium of Harderwijk. On august 17 the animal arrived after (accordingly) a trip of about 60 hours. The costs for the animal and its transport are believed to have been around 50,000 USD. The young orca was called “Tula” (pronounced Too-laah) taken from the name Sointula meaning “Place Of Harmony”. From the day of his arrival at the Dutch marine park he drew many visitors. Tula's condition however was very poorly. The long journey to Holland dried out his skin and parts of it fell off. Only within 3 months of his arrival, on October 23, Tula died at the Dolfinarium due to external fungus and a growth in the heart. He is believed to have been part of the Northern Resident killer whales of Canada.


It wasn't until 1976 that the marine park would have another orca in captivity. This time the animal was captured in Iceland and was named Gudrun (after the boat that captured her). In 1987 she was send to SeaWorld in Florida to become part of their breeding program. Gudrun had two calves (Taima & Nyar) but after the third time, she gave birth to a stillborn calf. She died 3 days later. The last recorded stranding of an orca in Holland dates back to 1963 when on October 10th a male was found on a beach of the small island of Texel, and eight days later on October the 18th a female was found on the beach of Noordwijk aan Zee.


If you look at all the recorded stranding’s of killer whales in Holland you notice that it happened about once every 5 years up until 1963. One could question why, since then, no more orcas have been found on the coasts of the country. Only the young female named Morgan was found swimming near the shoreline since then. It is known that the waters of Scotland and the Nordic countries are connected and close to the waters of Holland so one would expect to find orca's more often near the country.


One specific stranding (or actually two) stands out because of the date and course of the story.


On May 10th, 1940 the German army invaded Holland. World War II started months earlier and the Germans were on an unstoppable rampage to conquer many European countries. The Dutch army was no match for the highly armed forces of Adolf Hitler and within a few days Holland had to surrender. The German forces soon took over houses in several cities of The Netherlands to offer shelter to their soldiers. Surrounded by water this country has many cities near beaches and a small group of islands in the north that also houses citizens. It was on one of these islands called “Terschelling” that within two weeks, two killer whales stranded on locations very close to each other.
The first was on July 8th and was a pregnant female. The second was on July 20th and other then the stranding not much is known about it. The female however was alive when she was found. Since most of the food was hard to get during war time a stranded whale would make a thankful meal for any hungry human being. It is unclear if the orca was found by soldiers or citizens of Holland but the record does show that the animal was shot dead by German soldiers and eaten by both soldiers and citizens. The remains were not collected for any museum and so are lost. This could well be the only documented orca killed in the Second World War. On August 1943 an orca was found on a German beach. All 3 orcas are assumed to be from the same pod.