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Tag: Orca

Book Review: The Whaler’s Daughter

The Whaler’s Daughter – Jerry Mikorenda – Fitzroy Books – Published 24 July 2021

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Synopsis

In 1910, twelve-year-old Savannah lives with her widowed father on a whaling station in New South Wales, Australia. For generations, the Dawson family has carried on a very unusual way of life there. They use orcas to help them hunt whales. But Savannah believes the orcas hunted something else—her older brothers, who died mysteriously while fishing. Haunted by their deaths, Savannah wants to become a whaler to prove to her father that she’s good enough to carry on the family legacy and avenge her slain brothers. Meeting an aboriginal boy, Figgie, changes that. Figgie helps Savannah to hone her whaling skills and teaches her about the Law of the Bay. When she is finally able to join the crew, Savannah learns just how dangerous the whole business is. A whale destroys her boat and Savannah sinks into the shark-infested waters. That’s when the mysterious spirit orca Jungay returns to rescue her, and she vows to protect the creatures. That vow tests her mettle when the rapacious owner of a fishing fleet captures the orca pod and plans to slaughter them

My thoughts

The Whaler’s Daughter caught my attention, despite the dull cover, as I knew it was similar to true historical events and I wanted to see how the author would combine history with fiction.

A message of environmental protection, the author does a great job of conveying the historic events and perspectives from an approach that it is relevant for modern readers.

Few might know the story of Eden and the orca’s that worked with whalers in Australia. This story, I hope, will bring that story into the light. While much of the story in The Whaler’s Daughter differs from what is recounted of the events in Eden, there is enough to align the stories.

Along with themes of protecting the environment, caring for and working with animals, The Whaler’s Daughter also raises themes around the roles of women. Savannah is a strong and headstrong character. She knows exactly what she wants and that is to ride in the whaling boats along with her father’s crew. As she fights for her place, she has more encounters with the orcas. She initially fears and hates them, holding them accountable for the death of her family members. But as she gets to know them more, learns of the plans of the nearby towns leaders and gets her first encounter on a whaling boat, Sav must change everything she thought she knew.

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Book Review: A Whale of the Wild

A Whale of the Wild – Rosanne Parry – Illustrated by Lindsay Moore – Greenwillow Books – Published 1 September 2020

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Synopsis

For Vega and her family, salmon is life. And Vega is learning to be a salmon finder, preparing for the day when she will be her family’s matriarch. But then she and her brother Deneb are separated from their pod when a devastating earthquake and tsunami render the seascape unrecognizable. Vega must use every skill she has to lead her brother back to their family. The young orcas face a shark attack, hunger, the deep ocean, and polluted waters on their journey. Will Vega become the leader she’s destined to be?

My thoughts

If you follow my blog or reviews you’ll notice that I cannot resist books about orcas. I love these amazing creatures. I hate their captivity. I have read about orcas from the perspective of scientists. I have read about orcas from the point of view of people who have worked with them in captivity. I have read about orcas from the work of researchers and historians, indigenous perspectives, artists and more. I have never read about orcas from the perspective of orcas themselves. Until now.

Vega is an orca, descendent of the wayfinding grandmother orca of her family. Vega knows that someday it will be her job to lead her family, to find food and follow the patterns and stories that have guided her family for many generations. But she doubts her right to lead, especially when decisions she makes puts her family or danger, or no matter how far they hunt, food is scarce. When she and her brother Deneb are separated from their family, Vega must do everything to protect him and find their way back to their family.

I give full credit to Rosanne Parry. She has done a fantastic job of not only researching orcas, but capturing their heart and soul. While we mere humans will never know the wonders of the orca mind and heart, I think, from what we know of orcas, Parry has expressed their love of family, their matriarchal society, the hurt, pain and grief from loss of family and food sources, their sense of fun and adventure and their amazing intelligence, especially emotional intelligence.

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Book Review: Spirits of the Coast

Spirits of the Coast: Orcas in science, art and history – Martha Black (ed), Lorne Hammond (ed), Gavin Hanke (ed), Nikki Sanchez (ed) – The Royal British Columbia Museum – Published 15 May 2020

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Synopsis

Spirits of the Coast brings together the work of marine biologists, Indigenous knowledge keepers, poets, artists, and storytellers, united by their enchantment with the orca. Long feared in settler cultures as “killer whales,” and respected and honored by Indigenous cultures as friends, family, or benefactors, orcas are complex social beings with culture and language of their own. With contributors ranging from Briony Penn to David Suzuki, Gary Geddes and Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas, this collection brings together diverse voices, young and old, to explore the magic, myths, and ecology of orcas. A literary and visual journey through past and possibility, Spirits of the Coast illustrates how these enigmatic animals have shaped us as much as our actions have impacted them, and provokes the reader to imagine the shape of our shared future.

My thoughts

As a lover of all thing orca I knew I just had to read this book. And it was beautiful from cover to cover. There are many books out there about orcas, from introductory marine science books for kids to exposés about orcas in captivity. Spirits of the Coast captures all of that, as well as the elements I have often found to be missing from previous books, most notably that of an indigenous perspective. Through stories, poems, retellings, drawings, photographs, sculpture, museum exhibits, reflections, and articles, Spirits of the Coast captures a wide perspective on the amazing orcas and their history of interactions with humans. From the heartbreaking and despairing to the hopeful and uplifting, Spirits of the Coast is a powerful compendium.

Spirits of the Coast is divided into three main sections: Connection, Captivity and Consciousness. Throughout each, the power and magnificence of the orca is clearly portrayed. There is respect and awe and it seeps through every word, photograph and artwork.

At all times this is a book about orcas from a human perspective. That perspective spans many generations, cultures, opinions and angles. I loved that it contains many works of art, stories, and retellings from an indigenous perspective. Other books on orcas and their interactions with humans often neglect this perspective. It is so important.

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Book Review: The Spirit of Springer

The Spirit of Springer: The Real-Life Rescue of an Orphaned Orca – Amanda Abler and Levi Hastings (ill) – Little Bigfoot – Published 24 March 2020

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Synopsis

In 2002, a killer whale calf was discovered swimming alone in Puget Sound. This picture book follows the true story of her identification as a member of the A4 pod, a family of Northern Resident orcas living off the coast of British Columbia, and the team of scientists who worked together against all odds to save her from starvation and reunite her with her family.

The challenges of capturing Springer, transporting her north from Puget Sound to Canadian waters, and coordinating her release to facilitate a hopeful acceptance back into her family are brought to life.

My thoughts

The Spirit of Springer is a delightful story that retells the true events of the rescue and successful release of killer whale calf, Springer. The soft illustrations bring the events of the story to life. It’s a detailed and compelling story.

The writing does a fantastic job of placing the reader directly in the story, and setting the scene. The book is told from the perspective of the humans that interacted with Springer, from the ferry worker who spotter her alone to the scientists who worked to reunite her with her family. While this was a project that drew many people together, this book focuses on the work of Dr David Huff, a veterinarian at the Vancouver Aquarium and Dr Lance Barrett-Lennard, a marine mammal scientist.

The book explains both the media attention Springer received, the concern of the public and the details of her rescue, rehabilitation and release. Built into the story are explanations of scientific terminology, like dialect.

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Book Review: Orca

Orca: How We Came To Know And Love The Ocean’s Greatest Predator – Jason M. Colby – Oxford University Press – Published 1 June 2018

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Synopsis

Since the release of the documentary Blackfish in 2013, millions around the world have focused on the plight of the orca, the most profitable and controversial display animal in history. Yet, until now, no historical account has explained how we came to care about killer whales in the first place.

Drawing on interviews, official records, private archives, and his own family history, Jason M. Colby tells the exhilarating and often heartbreaking story of how people came to love the ocean’s greatest predator. Historically reviled as dangerous pests, killer whales were dying by the hundreds, even thousands, by the 1950s–the victims of whalers, fishermen, and even the US military. In the Pacific Northwest, fishermen shot them, scientists harpooned them, and the Canadian government mounted a machine gun to eliminate them. But that all changed in 1965, when Seattle entrepreneur Ted Griffin became the first person to swim and perform with a captive killer whale. The show proved wildly popular, and he began capturing and selling others, including Sea World’s first Shamu.

Over the following decade, live display transformed views of Orcinus orca. The public embraced killer whales as charismatic and friendly, while scientists enjoyed their first access to live orcas. In the Pacific Northwest, these captive encounters reshaped regional values and helped drive environmental activism, including Greenpeace’s anti-whaling campaigns. Yet even as Northwesterners taught the world to love whales, they came to oppose their captivity and to fight for the freedom of a marine predator that had become a regional icon.

Orca is the definitive history of how the feared and despised “killer” became the beloved “orca”–and what that has meant for our relationship with the ocean and its creatures.

My thoughts

Orca: How We Came To Know and Love the Ocean’s Greatest Predator is an incredible book. It seemingly borders the divide between research tome and story, drawing upon well-written narrative to convey a thorough recall of the history of the interactions between humans and orca.

Like many, I have watched the documentary Blackfish. Like many others, I have been long enthralled with the awesome power and grace of the Orcinus Orca, starting from my childhood love of whales and dolphins. I have seen students complete assignments on the now-popular aforementioned documentary, but wondered what parts of the story might have been missing, what other truths there are to be revealed about the history of humans and orcas. It was with great pleasure that I discovered Orca. Not only could I satisfy my own curiosity, but I could add to our library’s collection and our students’ research a source that provides a thorough investigation of this history, and one that considers all sides of the story.

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