Yesterday, I had reason to stand beside the Ocean with tears in my eyes.
I again stood exactly where Moby Doll was harpooned and brought into captivity in 1964 at East Point, Saturna Island.
Unthinkable now, but back then, who we were and what we believed is that there were too many Orca.
We vilified them, shot at them, and thereby there was social license for the plan to have an artist harpoon an Orca and then make a sculpture of it for the Vancouver Aquarium. The artist / harpoonist, Sam Burich, sat at this very spot from May 22 to July 16, 1964. A young Orca was then harpooned and the artist could not bring himself to kill him. The whale was brought into Vancouver Harbour at the end of the harpoon and only lived for 87 days.
He was nicknamed “Moby Doll” because we did not even have enough knowledge to discern juvenile male and female Orca. He was to be “The whale that changed the world” helping us know how wrong we can be but how quickly we can change when knowledge replaces fear and . . . when our values change.
On that point, my reason for being on Saturna Island was another source of emotion. There was so much evidence of change.
In my role with our Marine Education & Research Society I was there to help launch the #ForTheWhales movement with Saturna Island Marine Research & Education Society.
The intent is that this hashtag be used to increase awareness of the multitude of actions we can undertake to reduce impacts to whales – as consumers, energy-users, voters, neighbours, educators and boaters. This is with emphasis on the plight of the endangered Southern Residents, Moby Doll’s lineage who now number only 73 whales.
It is essential to realize there are still many ways to kill a whale through disconnect; entitlement; absence of precaution; perceiving societal / environmental health in only election cycles of 4 years; associating using less as being about loss rather than gain (less disposables, fossil fuels and dangerous chemicals); and the overwhelm that comes from not realizing the common solutions to socio-environmental problems.
How will we look back in another 55 years? Will we reflect on how the whales again moved us forward with values that better serve our own futures as well? Or, will we acknowledge that we had a critical window in which we could act, and did not.
The whales – indicators of environmental health and barometers of human values.
Care more. Use less.
DO MORE . . . #ForTheWhales.
Sources and additional information about Moby Doll:
CBC The Current, December 27, 2016, How Moby Doll changed the worldview of ‘monster’ orca (includes audio and video)
Colby, Jason M., and Paul Heitsch. 2019. Orca: how we came to know and love the ocean’s greatest predator.
Francis, Daniel, and Gil Hewlett. 2007. Operation Orca: Springer, Luna and the struggle to save West Coast killer whales. Madeira Park, BC: Harbour Pub.
Leiren-Young, Mark. 2016. Moby doll: the killer whale that changed the world. Greystone Books.
The Tyee, May 13, 2008, They Shoot Orcas, Don’t They?
Werner, M. T. (2010). What the whale was : orca cultural histories in British Columbia since 1964 (T). University of British Columbia. Retrieved from https://open.library.ubc.ca/collections/ubctheses/24/items/1.0071537