Moby Doll

Moby Doll.

Moby Doll.


Thanks to Herman Melville's Moby Dick, many thought that the only good whale was a dead whale. But in 1964, the curator of the Vancouver Aquarium decided to kill a whale and study it to learn more about this supposedly monstrous creature. A whale was harpooned off Saturna Island on British Columbia's west coast. But it didn't die. That's how the tale of Moby Doll began, the whale that changed the world, according to IDEAS contributor Mark Leiren-Young.

Participants in the program:

Dr. Murray Newman was the founding director for the Vancouver aquarium and served as head of the aquarium for 37 years. He came from Chicago where as a boy he kept tropical fish. He graduated from the University of Chicago in zoology, spent three years in the US Navy and Marine Corps in the South Pacific during World War II, studied marine biology at the University of Hawaii and did research at Steinhart Aquarium while earning a master's degree in zoology at the University of California, Berkeley.

Dr. Patrick McGeer and his wife Dr. Edith McGeer are universally acknowledged as leading researchers on Alzheimers and other neuro-degenerative diseases and are among the world's top 100 most highly cited neuroscientists. In addition to research, Dr. Patrick McGeer also served as MLA and Cabinet Minister until 1986, and created the Open Learning Institute of B.C. In 2004, Dr. McGeer was awarded the Henry Wisniewski prize given to the top Alzheimers researcher.

Dr. Charlotte Epstein is Assistant Professor in the Department of Government and International Relations at the University of Sydney. She is the author of The Power of Words in International Relations: Birth of An Anti-Whaling Discourse.

Chris Angus began volunteering at the Vancouver Aquarium in 1964 when he was a teenager keeping an eye on Moby Doll. In the 1970's he worked at the aquarium as a research assistant organizing expeditions to the Arctic, Africa, and along the coast of British Columbia. Today he is an experimental fish farmer, primarily working with sablefish.

Dr. John Ford
joined Fisheries and Oceans Canada in 2001 as the head of the Cetacean Research Program at the Pacific Biological Station in Nanaimo, BC. He is also an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Zoology and the Fisheries Centre, University of British Columbia. Dr. Ford has been involved in field studies on cetaceans in western Canadian waters since 1977. In recent years, his research has focused on the conservation status of cetaceans listed under Canada's Species-at-Risk Act and has involved population abundance estimation and development of acoustic tools for determining seasonal abundance of cetaceans in remote offshore waters.

Gil Hewlett joined the Vancouver Aquarium as the resident biologist in 1964. He has helped train many of the Aquarium's whales, including Skana and Hyak. Hewlett retired from the position of Assistant Director of Special Projects in March 2006.

Richard Blagborne was the convener of the 2013 Moby Doll Orca Symposium: Reflections for Change on Saturna Island. Blagborne initiated and led the restoration of the Fog Alarm Building which was scheduled for demolition as part of federal lighthouse de-staffing programs. The building has been completely renovated and now houses storyboards, a media centre, historical photos and written archives charting the island's history.

Special thanks to Vancouver Librarian Colin Preston for providing all the archival material.

Related books:

The Power of Words in International Relations by Dr. Charlotte Epstein.

Transients: Mammal-Hunting Killer Whales of B.C., Washington State, and Southeast Alaska by Graeme M Ellis and John K.B. Ford.

 Operation Orca: Springer, Luna and the Struggle to Save West Coast Killer Whales by Daniel Francis & Gil Hewlett.

People, Fish and Whales: The Vancouver Aquarium Story by Murray Newman.

Life in a Fishbowl: Confessions of an Aquarium Director by Murray Newman.

Related websites:

The Saturna Heritage Centre 

Center for Whale Research

Wild Whales BC Cetacean Sightings Network

Vancouver Aquarium

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