One of the state’s newest ferries will have a connection to a noteworthy orca.
The Washington State Transportation Commission Tuesday approved the names for two 144-car ferries that are currently under construction. Those names are the Samish and the Tokitae, which is named after an orca whale that was captured in Penn Cove and currently an attraction at the Miami Seaquarium where the marine mammal is known as Lolita. She is the last survivor of the 45 southern resident orcas captured in the state in the 1960s and 1970s. The practice was banned in state waters in 1976.
“The name Tokitae represents and honors this orca and her family, the southern resident orcas that range throughout the Salish and beyond,” Howard Garrett of the Orca Network said in a news release. “Some of this extended family of about 84 orcas are seen almost every month of every year, often from the ferries that ply the waters of the Salish Sea.”
Whidbey Island author Deb Lund originally suggested the Orca Network submit the name Tokitae in 2010 when construction of smaller, 64-car ferries were under away.
Although the name wasn’t chosen, the Orca Network again proposed the name in 2012, according to the news release. The Orca Network collected more than 1,500 signatures in a petition that included support from people in 44 states and 33 countries.
The name Tokitae is Coastal Salish or Chinook jargon meaning “nice day, pretty colors.” A veterinarian with the Miami Seaquarium decided on the name he had originally heard in a Seattle waterfront gift shop, according to the news release.