Drawing from interviews, official records, private archives, and his own family history, Jason M. Colby tells the exhilarating and heartbreaking history of a Pacific Northwest icon.
Orca: How We Came to Know and Love the Ocean’s Greatest Predator, by Jason M. Colby, begins with a quote from T. S. Eliot:
We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.
In the 1950s, orcas, also known as killer whales, were dying by the thousands—victims of whalers, fishers, and the US military. But in 1965, Seattle entrepreneur Ted Griffin became the first person to swim and perform with a captive orca. Suddenly, capturing and selling orcas became a lucrative business. The public embraced orcas, and scientists made the most of their new access.
And people began to question the ethics of keeping whales in captivity.
Orcas live in the waters right around Seattle, Washington, and Victoria, British Columbia, and some of the most brutal captures and deaths of orcas took place right in front of a watching public. (When I drive past nearby Penn Cove on a serene, deep blue day, I think of what I now know happened there in August 1970. According to Colby, some people who witnessed the tragedy still hear the whales’ cries fifty years later.)
Much of this book was too graphic for me to read. I skimmed through many sections. I let myself cry through others.
Sometimes it is right to immerse ourselves in the pain that will make us a more compassionate, more caring individual.
The book is part memoir. Colby dedicated the book to his father, who was a key player in the capture and sale of orcas, and who Colby says is “forever haunted by this story.”
Reader, if you’re uneasy about diving into this painfully descriptive book, there’s another option. I recommend listening to Jason Colby’s interview on Pod of Orcas: A Southern Resident Killer Whale Podcast. The episode is about 52 minutes long and rings with hope for a better future.
And, if you’re ever in a place where you’d like to talk about this more, let me know.
Here with you,