Sunday, October 27, 2013


A killer whale swims past the mouth of Columbia Bay in Alaska's Prince William Sound.

It's taken a while to come around to the right frame of mind to watch the movie "Blackfish."  It was bound to be upsetting.  It's about Sea World and captive killer whales, focused largely on the death of Sea World trainer Dawn Brancheau in February 2010.  After seeing the movie I am more convinced than ever that Sea World, or anyone else for that matter, should be shut down and never again allowed to hold a whale in captivity, Having read about the whales and Sea World and participating in the effort to stop them from capturing whales in Alaska's Prince William Sound, I sort of knew what to expect, but to tell the truth the situation is far worse than I had thought.

To begin with I  have to take back what I have said about the trainers after watching several former trainers in tears during the movie discussing how the whales are treated.  What came across was that for the most part the trainers were very idealistic young people enthralled with the whales and the idea of working with them, but who knew little about their natural history.

To compound that problem Sea World management consistently lied to them or misled them or just flat didn't tell them much about the whales.  And, the new employees had no reason not to trust what the management was telling them, Sea World managers were supposed to be the experts. One striking segment focused on the lies in the Sea World spiel that the young people had to give customers thinking it was all true.  One that stood out in the movie was that the whales only live to be 25 or 30 years old. That is the extreme age for whales in captivity and few of Sea World's captives live even that long; the average is more like 11 years.  In the wild males live into their 70s and females can reach 100.

From the movie it is obvious these trainers whom  I had expressed no sympathy for when they get batted around by the whales are almost as captive to Sea World management as the whales are. They aren't told about incidents with whales that are often termed accidents. They are fed false information and lured into believing they are safe in the water with the ocean's top-level predator. They also weren't told about specific whales with a history of attacking trainers.  According to the movie, there have been at least 70 attacks in Sea World parks over the years, none of which the new trainers were told about.

Sea World went so far as to blame Dawn Brancheau for the whale's attack that killed her, claiming the whale had pulled her down by a pony tail in her hair which she shouldn't have had. According to the movie, autopsy results showed she was first pulled into the water by her arm.

Given all that, I have to pull back from blaming trainers and having no sympathy for them.  Granted they should have learned more about the whales before they took the job but when I was that age I can totally see myself lured by the temptation to jump into that water, too.

At the end in the credits it said Sea World was invited to be interviewed and the offer was refused every time. In an ad for the movie on CNN, a Sea World written response said the movie was entirely one-sided.  For one thing they could have presented their side, for a second, to my mind there is only one side to this issue.

Something else about the movie was bothersome.  In all the arguments I had with Sea World people they often hauled out the tired claim that what they do advances the science around killer whales. Not one mention was made in the movie about any scientific knowledge Sea World has contributed. Sea World science claims have always been suspect as just a verbal front for the true mission of making money off killer whales. As a matter of fact the management actually concealed what they knew about killer whale behavior from their employees.

The Occupational Health and Safety Agency investigated Sea World after the death and the agency's eventual ruling was that trainers in the future had to be separated from the whales by a barrier. At the time the movie was made, Sea World had appealed that decision.

The OSHA decision is fine and a step in the direction of safety for the trainer.  Now all we need to do is address the safety of the whales. Overall you leave the movie convinced that animals used to ranging over thousands of miles of ocean do not belong in concrete swimming pools.

#blackfish, #seaworld, #killer whales

1 comment:

  1. Hello Tim. I hope your impassioned words reach the right people who will try to end the cruelty of captivity. These majestic animals are more like us than we ever knew. Learning of their capacity for emotion is the most surprising and heart-breaking part of this film. It is painful to watch. The young idealistic trainers were forced to learn the hard way about whales, whose ability to communicate becomes unforgettably clear when mothers scream and cry for their stolen offspring. And if the trainer didn't survive his or her final "lesson" of what whales confined all their lives in bathtubs can do, the tragedy is compounded. It is enough. Whales belong in the wild. They need to be free.


Interesting quotations

· " “Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.” — Ernest Hemingway

When I write, I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth. Kurt Vonnegut

“If you wrote something for which someone sent you a cheque, if you cashed the cheque and it didn't bounce, and if you then paid the light bill with the money, I consider you talented.” Stephen King

The thing about ignornance is, you don't have to remain ignorant. — me again"

Never debate with someone who gets ink by the barrel" — George Hayes, former Alaska Attorney General who died recently

My dear Mr. Frost: two roads never diverge in a yellow wood. Three roads meet there. — @Shakespeareon Twitter

"The mark of a great shiphandler is never getting into situations that require great shiphandling," Adm. Ernest King, USN

Me: Does the restaurant have cute waitresses?

My friend Gail: All waitresses are cute when you're hungry.

I'm not a writer, but sometimes I push around words to see what happens. – Scott Berry

“The rivers of Alaska are strewn with the bones of men who made but one mistake” - Fred McGarry, a Nushagak Trapper

Many people hear voices when no one is there. Some of them are called mad and are shut up in rooms where they stared at walls all day. Others are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing. – Meg Chittenden

A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity. – Franz Kafka

We are all immortal until the one day we are not. – me again

If the muse is late, start without her – Peter S. Beagle

Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. ~Mark Twain Actually you could do the same thing with the word "really" as in "really cold."

If you are looking for an experience that will temper your vanity, this is it. There's no one to impress when you're alone on the trap line. – Michael Carey quoting his father's journal

Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing. – Benjamin Franklin

It’s nervous work. The state you need to write in is the state that others are paying large sums of money to get rid of. – Shirley Hazzard

So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence -- Bertrand Russell

You know that I always just wanted to have a small ship to take stuff from a place that had a lot of that stuff to a place that did not have a lot of that stuff and so prosper.—Jackie Faber, “The Wake of the Lorelei Lee”

If you attack the arguer instead of the argument, you lose both

If an insurance company won’t pay for damages caused by an “act of God,” shouldn’t it then have to prove the existence of God? – I said that

I used to think getting old was about vanity—but actually it’s about losing people you love. Getting wrinkles is trivial. – Eugene O’Neill

German General to Swiss General: “You have only 500,000 men in your army; what would you do if I invaded with 1 million men?”

Swiss General: “Well, I suppose every one of my soldiers would need to fire twice.”

Writing is the only thing that when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.—Gloria Steinem

Exceed your bandwidth—sign on the wall of the maintenance shop at the West Coast/Alaska Tsunami Warning Center

One thing I do know, if you keep at it, you usually wind up getting something done.—Patricia Monaghan

Do you want to know what kind of person makes the best reporter? I’ll tell you. A borderline sociopath. Someone smart, inquisitive, stubborn, disorganized, chaotic, and in a perpetual state of simmering rage at the failings of the world.—Brett Arends

It is a very simple mind that only knows how to spell a word one way.—Andrew Jackson

3:30 is too late or too early to do anything—Rene Descartes

Everything is okay when it’s 50-below as long as everything is okay. – an Alaskan in Tom Walker’s “The Seventymile Kid”

You can have your own opinion but you can’t have your own science.—commenter arguing on a story about polar bears and global warming

He looks at three ex wives as a good start—TV police drama

Talkeetna: A friendly little drinking town with a climbing problem.—a handmade bumper sticker

“You’re either into the wall or into the show”—Marco Andretti on giving it all to qualify last at the 2011 Indy 500

Makeup is not for the faint of heart—the makeup guerrilla

“I’m going to relax in a very adult manner.”—Danica Patrick after sweating it out and qualifying half an hour before Andretti

“Asking Congress to come back is like asking a mugger to come back because he forgot your wallet.”—a roundtable participant on Fox of all places

As Republicans go further back in the conception process to define when life actually begins, I am beginning to think the eventual definition will be life begins in the beer I was drinking when I met her.—me again

Hunting is a “critical element for the long-term conservation of wood bison.”—a state department of Fish and Game official explaining why the state would not go along with a federal plan to reintroduce wood bison in Alaska because the agreement did not specifically allow hunting

Each day do something that won’t compute – anon

I can’t belive I still have to protest this shit – a sign carriend by an elderly woman at an Occupy demonstration

Life should be a little nuts or else it’s just a bunch of Thursdays strung together—Kevin Costner as Beau Burroughs in “Rumor has it”

You’re just a wanker whipping up fear —Irish President Michael D. Higgins to a tea party radio announcer

Being president doesn’t change who you are; it reveals who you are—Michelle Obama

Things sports announcers say

"… there's a fearlessment about him …"

"He's got to have the lead if he's going to win this race."

"Kansas has always had the ability to score with the basketball."

"NFL to put computer chips in balls." Oh, that's gotta hurt.

"Now that you're in the finals you have to run the race that's going to get you on the podium."

"It's very important for both sides that they stay on their feet."

This is why you get to hate sportscasters. Kansas beats Texas for the first time since 1938. So the pundits open their segment with the question "let's talk about what went wrong." Wrong? Kansas WON a football game! That's what went RIGHT!

"I brought out the thermostat to show you how cold it is here." Points to a thermometer reading zero in Minneapolis.

"It's tough to win on the road when you turn the ball over." Oh, really? Like you can do all right if you turn the ball over playing at home?

Cliches so imbedded in sportscasters' minds they can't help themselves: "Minnesota fell from the ranks of the undefeated today." What ranks? They were the only undefeated team left.

A good one: A 5'10" player went up and caught a pass off a defensive back over six feet tall. The quote? "He's got some hops."

Best homonym of the day so far: "It's all tied. Alabama 34, Kentucky 3." Oh, Tide.

"Steve Hooker commentates on his Olympic pole vault gold medal." When "comments" just won't do.

"He's certainly capable of the top ten, maybe even higher than that."

"Atlanta is capable of doing what they're doing."

"Biyombo, one of seven kids from the Republic of Congo." In the NBA? In America? In his whole country?

"You can't come out and be aggressive but you can't come out and be unaggressive."

"They're gonna be in every game they play!"

"First you have to get two strikes on the hitter before you get the strikeout."

"The game ended in the final seconds." You have to wonder when the others ended or are they still going on?

How is a team down by one touchdown before the half "totally demoralized?"

"If they score runs they will win."

"I think the matchup is what it is"

After a play a Houston defender was on his knees, his head on the ground and his hand underneath him appeared to clutch a very sensitive part of the male anatomy. He rolled onto his back and quickly removed his hand. (Remember the old Cosby routine "you cannot touch certain parts of your body?") Finally they helped the guy to the sideline and then the replay was shown. In it the guy clearly took a hard knee between his thighs. As this was being shown, one of the announcers says, "It looks like he hurt his shoulder." The other agrees and then they both talk about how serious a shoulder injury can be. Were we watching the same game?

"Somebody is going to be the quarterback or we're going to see a new quarterback."

"If you're gonna play running back in the SEC you're gonna take hits."

"That was a playmaker making a play."

Best headlines ever

Sister hits moose on way to visit sister who hit moose.

Man loses his testicles after attempting to smoke weed through a SCUBA tank

Church Mutual Insurance won't cover Church's flood damage because it's 'an act of God'

Homicide victims rarely talk to police

Meerkat Expert Attacked Monkey Handler Over Love Affair With Llama Keeper

GOP congressman opposes gun control because gay marriage leads to bestiality

Owner of killer bear chokes to death on sex toy

Support for legalizing pot hits all-time high

Give me all your money or my penguin will explode

How zombie worms have sex in whale bones

Crocodile steals zoo worker's lawn mower

Woman shot by oven while trying to cook waffles

Nude beach blowjob jet ski fight leads to wife's death

Woman stabs husband with squirrel for not buying beer Christmas Eve