This Week In History: The tale of Luna the lost Orca is now an IMAX film


The film ‘Saving Luna’ playing at the IMAX Victoria at the Royal BC Museum is the story of an orphaned Orca who appeared in Muchalat Inlet near Gold River on Vancouver Island in 2001.

Luna was born into the Southern Resident Killer Whales but went missing.

‘Saving Luna’ filmmaker, Michael Parfit, says, “Babies disappear all the time and they assumed that he had died, but he hadn’t. He had gotten separated from his pod in Nootka Sound way up the coast of Vancouver Island, and suddenly this little whale popped up and started going over to people’s boats and looking at them.”

The young whale made headlines around the world. People were drawn to the remote area to catch a glimpse of the friendly whale.

“After a very short period of time, people were scratching his tongue. He was like a golden retriever whale,” says Parfit.

Suzanne Chisholm co-directed the movie with her husband Michael. The pair felt like they had stepped into a drama when they first arrived.

“So the government was trying to move Luna to Victoria to try to reconnect him with his pod. The First Nations said, no, wait a minute.” she said.

Members of the Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nation believed the whale was their recently deceased Chief who said he would come back as an Orca.

“Every human being who saw him wanted to embrace him and knew that the scientists said stand back,” says Parfit. “But how do you solve this? He’s desperate for attention, and yet we’re not supposed to give it to him.”

The struggle for the whale’s future went on for years, with several plans to get ‘Luna’ back to his pod. Some plans involved training the whale to follow government boats, others involved trapping the whale.

“This huge government entity, they’re 175 people. All of a sudden, as they start trying to catch Luna canoes, go out on the water. Where does Luna go? He follows the canoes,” Parfit said.

‘Luna’ was killed in 2006 by a tugboat propeller. The film focuses more on the human clashes caused by the presence of the whale. Parfit says, “It’s like, while this is all happening and we’re fighting over him, I think he’s getting what he wants.”

Saving Luna is playing at the IMAX Victoria at the Royal BC Museum.

Brad MacLeodBrad MacLeod

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