Friday, August 14, 2009

Operation ORCA Spring, Luna and the Struggle to Save West Coast Killer Whales

by Daniel Francis and Gil Hewlett. Harbour Publishing 2007. $29.95. ISBN 9781550174267. Hardcover. 280 pages.
Not many years ago, killer whales had a reputation that was even fiercer than their name. But in 1964 the Vancouver Aquarium obtained its first killer whale, Moby Doll, and for the first time the public got a personal look at one of these much-feared marine mammals. It was soon discovered that they were not the vicious man-eaters of legend. Attitudes began to change and today they are revered as loveable, intelligent creatures, iconic symbols of the marine environment.
In January 2002, a young killer whale was discovered alone in the waters of Puget Sound near Seattle. Determining that the whale would not survive alone so far from home, a team of scientists captured "Springer" and transported her by boat north to her home range where she rejoined her family.At the same time Springer was making her historic journey, another lone whale turned up in Nootka Sound on the West Coast of Vancouver Island. The people of Nootka Sound adopted "Luna," but he was a large boisterous youngster who liked to cuddle boats and the government feared he would get into trouble. Another rescue was planned to return Luna to his family but this time there was no happy ending.In Operation Orca, award-winning author Daniel Francis gives breadth to the complications, contradictions, and political posturing that twice engulfed the debate of whether to interfere or let nature take its course. Through the amazing story of these two "orphan" whales, Operation Orca tells the larger story of orcas in the Pacific Northwest, the people who have studied them and the transformation of the whale's image from killer to icon.
In summarizing the disappointing failure in rescuing "Luna" the author pinpoints what the real problem was – "For them, the failure to save one whale was symptomatic of a larger failure of community and humanity. They thought that Luna died because the interested parties had not been able to put aside their personal agendas for the good of the animal." This poignant realization captures it all.
The book goes into great detail into the persons involved in the narrative. This was necessary and paid off in the final result as the reader has a great understanding and appreciation of the parties involved.
The text flowed easily in an engrossing style, reflecting both appreciation of the subject matter and the reading audience. There can sometimes be a tendency for writers to pen an overly academic style of writing which is not evident here.
I would recommend this book as a good read for anyone who really wants to understand the complexities involved with rescuing and overseeing the welfare of killer whales. Francis and Hewlett have made for an excellent writing team.
--Reviewed by Debbie Shirlaw

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