Search Box

Saturday, November 2, 2013


Just saw Blackfish, the documentary about orcas kept in captivity. It makes its message convincingly, and leaves you feeling that we ought not to keep these creatures confined. The interviews with the former SeaWorld trainers are particularly effective.

Orca brains are not only larger than ours, but apparently have more highly developed limbic systems -- the part of the brain which governs emotion.

I was struck by how similar orcas are to elephants. Both creatures are huge, and also hugely intelligent. Both live in extended three generation family groups. Both grieve when their offspring die. Even the high pitched sounds they make when distressed sound somewhat similar. Elephants have better memories than we do; it is unclear whether orcas do.

It might prove impossible, but it would seem worth our while to have researchers attempt to follow these creatures in their natural environment and attempt to learn their "language" in some sort of Berlitz-with-the-aid-of-high-tech fashion. There's probably something to be gained.


Anonymous said...

I saw this about a week ago. I felt there was too much "Free Willy" preaching; that viewers should reach their own conclusions based on the facts presented. In this case, it's hard to imagine someone objectively watching, then deciding "Tough titty, Fishy. I'm taking the kids to Sea World!!"
It was also interesting, that the horror film Orca (a Jaws ripoff) was made around the time they started capturing the orcas. The "professionals" insist that the animals are all quite friendly in the wild, yet with their intelligence and memory, you'd think they'd still be pissed off. If it were me, I'd wait until 100-200 years after the last one had been captured, before trying to swim with one. And another 1,000 years after the Japanese are made extinct by robots and sex pillows.

bluffcreek1967 said...

John, I also watched the CNN documentary 'Blackfish.' I thought it was done very well, and I felt it made a compelling case for not keeping these intelligent creatures in captivity. I'm not fully sure where I stand on the issue yet, but it does seem that they do much better in their own natural environment than confined to small pools at Sea World or wherever.

By the way, CNN is also showing a documentary on nuclear energy and, from what I've read so far, it has upset some environmentalists because it's pretty much pro-nuclear. I hope to watch it soon.

John Craig said...

Anon --
Ha, good point, it WAS preachy (though I still thought it was effective). And I did read afterward that part of SeaWorld's response was to point out that they rehabilitate lots of animals and return them to the wild, plus they've donated millions to marine mammal research.

True, you never hear of people "swimming with the orcas" the same way you hear about them swimming with the dolphins. Though you also never hear of orcas upending kayakers or going after surfers the way some sharks do.

The Japanese hunt orcas the same way they hunt other whales? I hadn't realized that.

John Craig said...

Ambrose --
Wow, interesting about the nuclear power documentary, especially because it doesn't sound like the Communist News Network. I look forward to seeing it.

It's always seemed to me that nuclear gets a bad rap. it's by far the cleanest source of power, other than wind and solar, and it's far more cost effective than either of those. Plus construction standards have evidently improved greatly since the days of Three Mile island and Chernobyl.

Anonymous said...

The subject of nuclear became more interesting to me when I learned of ongoing development work on Thorium reactors. Apparently early work on nuclear reactors was biased in favor of our current technologies because we wanted sources of fissile materials for bombs for our cold war nuclear arsenal even tough some promising work on Thorium reactors was done in the 50s and 60s. These appear to offer many advantages for civil nuclear power, and a number of countries (including China and India) are working in this area. Disappointingly there little public awareness of or research into this technology in the US.

John Craig said...

G --
Thank you for that. I don't understand why thorium hasn't moved faster or gotten more publicity.