Revelations: #Blackfish Tonight

October 27, 2013 at 9:34 am by: nancy a heitzeg Category: Arts and Culture, Eco-Justice, Intersectionality, Spirituality

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The Killer in the Pool

Tim Zimmerman, July 30, 2010

Tilikum kept dragging Brancheau through the water, shaking her violently. Finally—now holding Brancheau by her arm—he was guided onto the medical lift. The floor was quickly raised. Even now, Tilikum refused to give her up. Trainers were forced to pry his jaws open. When they pulled Brancheau free, part of her arm came off in his mouth. Brancheau’s colleagues carried her to the pool deck and cut her wetsuit away. She had no heartbeat. The paramedics went to work, attaching a defibrillator, but it was obvious she was gone. A sheet was pulled over her body. Tilikum, who’d been involved in two marine-park deaths in the past, had killed her…

After Brancheau’s death, Jean-Michel Cousteau, president of the Ocean Futures Society, made a videotaped statement in which he said, “Maybe we as a species have outgrown the need to keep such wild, enormous, complex, intelligent, and free-ranging animals in captivity, where their behavior is not only unnatural; it can become pathological,” he said. “Maybe we have learned all we can from keeping them captive.”

black fishCousteau raises a profound point. But regardless of how this incident affects orca captivity, Tilikum’s fate is likely sealed, despite calls for his release back into the wild. Free Willy‘s Keiko underwent extensive retraining before being released into the seas off Iceland, and appears to have foraged for food on his own. But he never reintegrated with a pod. A little over a year later, after swimming to Norway, he died, likely from pneumonia. Ken Balcomb still believes that most marine-park orcas can be taught what they need to know to be returned to the wild. (No real effort was made to find Keiko’s family, Balcomb says, which is a key to success.) But even he rules Tilikum out. “Tilikum is basically psychotic,” he told me as we looked out over Haro Strait in May. “He has been maintained in a situation where I think he is psychologically unrecoverable in terms of being a wild whale.”…

Three thousand miles away, Balcomb often sees a pod of killer whales easing their way through the wilderness of water that is his Haro Strait backyard. They swim with purpose and coordination, huffing spumes of mist into the salty, spruce-scented air. The group is known as L Pod, and one, a big male designated L78, was born just a few years after Tilikum. Balcomb has been tracking L78 for more than two decades. He knows that his mother—born around 1960—and his brother are always close by. He knows that L78 ranges as far south as California with his pod, in search of salmon.

L78’s dorsal fin stands proud and straight as a knife, with none of Tilikum’s marine-park flop. He hunts when he’s hungry, mates with the females who offer themselves, and whistles to the extended family that is always nearby. He cares nothing for humans and is all but oblivious to their presence when they paddle out in kayaks to marvel as he swims. He knows nothing of the life of Tilikum or the artificial world humans have manufactured for him. But Tilikum, before 26 years in marine parks, once knew L78’s life, once knew what it was like to swim the ocean alongside his mother and family. And perhaps, just perhaps, that also helps explain why Dawn Brancheau died.

See also Blood in the Water


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nancy a heitzeg
nancy a heitzeg moderator

Do hope you watch..

 A stunning documentary that not only exposes the animal abuse inherent in keeping captives,  but it is also a window into corporate greed and deception and the risks faced by human workers as well..

#ShutterSeaWorld and all such anmal entertainment enterprises

nancy a heitzeg
nancy a heitzeg moderator

one more thing.. 

i have written a lot here about the connections between oppressions -- much of it to encourage a connection between efforts to liberate humans with animal liberation.

today i am hoping that all those outraged by the treatment of orcas -- who are kept for decades in tanks equivalent to a bath tub -- will  feel similar outrage over our treatment of humans in the prison industrial complex.

Sea World is just like Pelican Bay


  1. […] First having read the book of myths, and loaded the camera, and checked the edge of the knife-blade, I put on the body-armor of black rubber the absurd flippers the grave and awkward mask. I am having to do this not like Cousteau with his assiduous team aboard the sun-flooded schooner but here alone. There is a ladder The ladder is always there hanging innocently close to the side of the schooner. We know what it is for, we who have used it. Otherwise it is a piece of maritime floss some sundry equipment. I go down. Rung after rung and still the oxygen immerses me the blue light the clear atoms of our human air. I go down. My flippers cripple me, I crawl like an insect down the ladder and there is no one to tell me when the ocean will begin. First the air is blue and then it is bluer and then green and then black I am blacking out and yet my mask is powerful it pumps my blood with power the sea is another story the sea is not a question of power I have to learn alone to turn my body without force in the deep element. And now: it is easy to forget what I came for among so many who have always lived here swaying their crenellated fans between the reefs and besides you breathe differently down here. I came to explore the wreck. The words are purposes. The words are maps. I came to see the damage that was done and the treasures that prevail. I stroke the beam of my lamp slowly along the flank of something more permanent than fish or weed the thing I came for: the wreck and not the story of the wreck the thing itself and not the myth the drowned face always staring toward the sun the evidence of damage worn by salt and away into this threadbare beauty the ribs of the disaster curving their assertion among the tentative haunters. This is the place. And I am here, the mermaid whose dark hair streams black, the merman in his armored body. We circle silently about the wreck we dive into the hold. I am she: I am hewhose drowned face sleeps with open eyes whose breasts still bear the stress whose silver, copper, vermeil cargo lies obscurely inside barrels half-wedged and left to rot we are the half-destroyed instruments that once held to a course the water-eaten log the fouled compass We are, I am, you are by cowardice or courage the one who find our way back to this scene carrying a knife, a camera a book of myths in which our names do not appear. Revelations: Blackfish […]