In 1960, following visits to the Berlin Aquarium and the British Museum of Natural history, Murray Newman envisioned a bold old idea to reel in the punters for his fledgling Vancouver Aquarium: life sized sculptured replicas of the charismatic orca. In 1964 sculptor Samuel Birch was hired:
“He set up a harpoon gun on Saturna Island …. Two months later, a pod of 13 killer whales approaches the shore. Burich harpoons a young whale, injuring but not killing it. Immediately, two pod members came to the aid of the stunned whale, pushing it to the surface to breathe. Then the whale seemed to come to life and struggled to free itself–jumping and smashing its tail and, according to observers, uttering ‘shrill whistles so intense that they could easily be heard above the surface of the water 300 feet away.’ Burich set off in a small boat to finish the job. He fired several rifle shells at the whale … but the orca did not die.”1
Newman proposed saving the 15 foot, one-ton whale. A line was attached to the harpoon in its back and the whale towed to Vancouver, a journey of 16 hours through rough seas and squalls.
“Moby Doll” –the first killer whale to be studied in captivity- was put on display in a pen at the Burrard Drydocks. He died 87 days later.
“The pressures facing our oceans, and indeed our entire earth, are complex. The Vancouver Aquarium, with its long history of research and conservation work, is committed to generating science and expanded public engagement to promote the long-term solutions. Almost all of the pressures in the ocean realm are of human origin, and it will have to be humans that bring forward the needed changes.”2
Dr. John Nightingale, President & CEO, Vancouver Aquarium