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Posts Tagged ‘orca’

Driving home from a friend’s house late the weekend before, I had to stop to get photos of a toasted cheddar moon and blazing red telluric Mars just above it. Little did I know that, courtesy of the fires raging in Washington, Oregon, and California, we soon wouldn’t be able to see the sky for a week or more.

The smoke began to funnel northward through the I5 corridor late in the week. At first it looked like fog. Then, on Saturday, September 12th, 2020, we woke up on an alien planet. It looked like Mars outside– yellow, hazy, dark, and foreboding.

This is the Edmonds ferry dock at Brackett’s Landing. The whole world looked like pea soup. You could barely see the ferry that had just left.

The ferry loomed like a ghost ship and was then sucked into a void. Normally you see an opposite shore. Today, there was nothing, just the edge of the world.

I zoomed in as the ferry plowed westward, but at best it seemed like an apparition in a sandstorm.

These photos have not been edited at all. This is how the beach actually looked that Saturday. You can see scuba divers coming in. I found it odd that people were still out diving, but does hazardous air quality affect visibility in the water enough for them to care?

Even the plants’ colors seemed off. Everything was saturated in this weird, otherworldly glow, like we had survived some nuclear horror and were slowly crawling out of our shelters afterwards.

As I snapped the photo of the famous orca, I mused how it appeared to be swimming in pollution. Then it hit me– how similar this is to the disgusting pollution our resident orcas live in. This is what we do to their world. This is a constant for them. Because we so callously pollute the water, each local orca could be considered a floating superfund site.

We used to rejoice when their babies were born. Now we just pray they survive the lack of traditional food sources and the industrial waste. They often don’t, and humanity goes on complaining about lack of entertainment during COVID, or rioting, or obsessing over the latest cosmetics, ignoring their cries.

I have stood here many times, but I’d never seen it look so foreign.

All day, no matter where I went in two counties, I noted an absence of birds. Far fewer birds than normal braved the rancid, tar-filled air. This crow and his seagull buddy foraged along the beach in tandem with few others in sight.

Yep. It was definitely Smoke Time.

Arriving at the north end of Lake Washington, this panorama seemed straight out of a sci fi movie. We were supposed to have temperatures nearing 80 degrees with near full sun, but last time I’d checked the temperature it was 58.

Walking out on the dock felt like walking out to the edge of a flat earth. You usually see land on all sides. Seattle, however, had disappeared. The middle of this scene had simply vanished. There was smoke, and then there was nothing.

Gazing down into the lake’s milfoil mass, I imagined one of those menacing merpeople from Harry Potter reaching up and grabbing me. No thanks.

These logs, although fixed, appeared to be swimming away from the yawing nothingness in the middle of the lake.

A gaggle of geese bobbed around like nothing was happening, the lighting exactly like the filters used to portray Mexico City in the movies. Ever notice that, that Mexico City always shows up in hazy brown or sepia tones on the big screen?

These old pilings looked like a pathway into another place or time.

Zooming in, no birds roosted here today. None flew through the air either. Aside from traffic noise, there was an eerie stillness.

One rebel Canada goose floated leisurely through the soup apart from the others.

As I was chatting with a local, we looked up and said, “what’s that?” It was the first time we’d seen the sun in a couple of days. It was a grapefruit-hued pinhole in the sky, barely piercing the blanketed glop of destruction.

The sun’s reflection in the water was just as bizarre.

At times there was a blush or rose color playing upon the undulating mocha of the lake.

While forecasters had originally said the smoke would start moving out earlier this week, that didn’t happen. The Seattle area was enveloped in a dense yellow fog again this morning… except it wasn’t fog. By afternoon we saw a bit of sunlight, prompting me to go to Juanita Beach in Kirkland to see what I could see.

Sure enough, there was the sun, sparkling down upon the latte-like lake. Yet it seemed to be a sun from John Carter, Pelelandra, or Tatooine.

The ducks were happy enough. But there were still no birds in the air.

It seemed like dusk, not afternoon.

Beyond the boardwalk there was just a fisherman and faux fog. No Seattle. No 520 bridge. Just empty space, because the west is on fire and we continue to pray for rain when there otherwise would have been summer through the end of September.

Smoke veils the air like souls in drifting suspension, declining the war’s insistence everyone move on.

Jayne Anne Phillips

©2020 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

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Lolita's (Tokitae's) capture in Penn Cove almost half a century ago

Lolita’s (Tokitae’s) capture in Penn Cove almost half a century ago

Yesterday, August 8th, was the 44th anniversary of the Penn Cove Capture. In this sickening, inhumane event, a large group of wild orcas was chased into a cove near Whidbey Island, Washington with speedboats and explosives. Seven were taken into captivity and five died during the roundup, including a mother trying to rescue her calf.

No feeling person could read an account of how the orcas responded during this event and not feel disgusted by it. Orcas are intelligent mammals with their own language and culture, and because scores of them were captured in Northwest waters in that time period, they are an endangered species today.

Only one of the orcas captured near Penn Cove– also the oldest captive orca anywhere– is still alive. Lolita, originally called Tokitae, has been at the Miami Sequarium ever since 1970 when she was taken from her pod. She is nearing 50, and for the past 44 years has been having to dance for her food in a substandard-sized tank in the hot sun.

She still recognizes her native tongue; she still has relatives, including an orca in her 90s who is likely her mother, roaming the Salish Sea in the Northwest. Despite all the efforts to bring her back to a sea pen in her native waters, the Miami Seaquarium still won’t allow her to come home and our government has failed to make it happen. Lolita/Tokitae is the Seaquarium’s star attraction and has made untold millions for them.

The Penn Cove Capture of Southern Resident Orcas, August 1970

The Penn Cove Capture of Southern Resident Orcas, August 1970

Howard Garrett of the Orca Network provided a link to this documentary in a recent newsletter, Lolita: Slave to Entertainment. This film was made in 2003, and sadly, more than 11 more years have passed without improvements in her situation. As the experts interviewed in this piece said, this orca will be worked until she’s dead. She’s already outlasted the rest of her captured peers, some by decades. Some captured orcas have even killed themselves, as did Kathy, the lead dolphin in the Flipper TV series. It’s why Flipper trainer Ric O’Barry became a marine animal rights activist.

You’d think that after 44 years the Miami Seaquarium’s owners could show a little compassion and let their star attraction retire in peace. Orcas have life spans similar to humans and I know that when I hit 50 I don’t want anyone keeping me locked in a bathroom and making me do ballet for a sandwich a couple times a day. I don’t want that now. Yet this amazing creature, who has shown such resilience and spirit despite the daily cruelty she endures, is required to do exactly that in a crappy concrete prison that’s not even properly sized.

Please take an hour to watch Lolita: Slave to Entertainment in memory of what happened at Penn Cove (and elsewhere in the Northwest in the 1960s and 1970s). Some clips, like seeing Lolita/Tokitae float listlessly and alone in her tub between shows and at night, are difficult to watch. But this is a story every schoolchild in the Northwest and in Florida should know. This is an issue all Washingtonians should unite on.

Now is a good time to make your voice heard. As the Orca Network has pointed out, last month the Miami Seaquarium was purchased by Palace Entertainment, which owns over 70 theme parks. We have an opportunity to change the barbaric practice of orca capture and confinement; let’s do this. The Orca Network’s Lolita page has links so that you can easily contact Palace Entertainment.You can read Howard Garrett’s letter to Palace Entertainment here.

Tokitae Ferry

Next time you board the new Washington State ferry Tokitae, take a moment to think of who it’s named after. Your involvement could save her life. Photo by Karen Ducey, Puget Sound Business Journal.

When the half a century-old Lolita is finally brought home to a sea pen in the San Juan Islands, I’d imagine that her reaction would be similar to Raju the elephant’s, who was just released from 50 years of captivity. Raju had been beaten and forced to wear spiked chains. He ate what he could get from passing tourists but sometimes ate plastic just to fill his stomach. When his captors knew he was about to be rescued they chained him even tighter, and then when those shackles finally came off, he cried.

Raju

Like orcas, elephants are highly intelligent animals who live in groups, and Raju went through 50 years of hell as well. He now lives in a refuge with five other elephants who have welcomed him as a friend. He can now spend the last chapters of his life eating regular food, being loved by a family, and being properly cared for by humans instead of exploited.

I hope for the same for Tokitae. Together we can make it happen.

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A righteous man regards the life of his animal,

But the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.

Proverbs 12:10

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©2014 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

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This week we Washingtonians got happy news from our Department of Fish and Wildlife and NOAA.

First, our Southern resident orcas– orca pods J, K, and L that live in the Salish Sea and Puget Sound– will continue to have Endangered Species Act protection. Many people don’t realize that we have two types of orcas here, the Southern residents, who have their own diet and language, and transient orcas. (more…)

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The Orca Project has reported that Tokitae (aka Lolita) has been ill and the Miami Seaquarium won’t release details about her condition.

The Truth about Lolita…?.

A news release from The Orca Network says that she has recovered, but there still aren’t any details.

http://www.orcanetwork.org/news/releases.html (more…)

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