Why is that?
And how is it possible that in a spectacular case of cognitive dissonance we, at the exact same time, terrorize and slaughter dolphins, eat them, kidnap their babies, and imprison them appalling conditions?
Voices In The Ocean: A Journey into the Wild and Haunting World of Dolphins is Susan Casey's search for an answer to these questions. If you love dolphins (and who doesn't?) this book is a must-read.
Researching across the globe, Casey snorkels in Hawaii with a New Age dolphin guru and describes being "sonared" by spotted dolphins. She interviews experts ranging from Ric O'Barry to the "Darth Vader of Dolphins". Susan Casey has big journalistic chops, used here brilliantly.
Casey's portraits of dolphin societies include the scientists who study them. She describes the researchers' fascination with the mysteries that astound and perplex them at every turn. She glides through the history of modern scientific research on dolphins, including the most mystical of all, John Lilly and his quixotic quest to teach dolphins to speak with us. (There's some serious woo-woo there - at one point Lilly used LSD and sensory deprivation tanks. Simultaneously.) Though discredited, his work laid the foundation (and more rigorous standards) for modern studies.
This is the "good" side of human-dolphin interactions. Casey doesn't shy away from the bad and the ugly though. She visits the infamous cove at Taiji, Japan and the dolphin-killing villages of the Solomon Islands. She speaks with people involved with the captive dolphin trade, and those who protest dolphin captivity for entertainment (SeaWorld is the most familiar example; orcas are the largest dolphins).
|Lolita the Orca|
Casey believes that a paradigm shift is occurring in our relations with cetaceans. She cites global outcry after the documentaries "The Cove" and "Blackfish" were released. So-called "Darth Vader" had a change of heart and business model, from mercenary dolphin captor to promoting his virtual-reality dolphin interactions to keep dolphins free. The courts denied the Georgia Aquarium's bid to acquire 18 new beluga whales. SeaWorld pledged to end its orca shows - and just pledged to stop breeding orcas. Even the U.S. Navy has been called on (and successfully sued) to limit using a sonar that leads to mass strandings.
Casey takes us along to the ancient Minoan society on the island of Thera, where thousands of years ago people used images of dolphins as talismans or icons all over their buildings and artifacts. Perhaps we are rediscovering what ancient people knew: that dolphins, intelligent for millions of years before apes evolved, are one of the only animals in this world with a kinship with us in our societies, body and vocal language, playfulness, and creativity.
I myself have moved from total ignorance of how dolphins end up in dolphin shows, which I once loved. A few years ago we visited the Georgia Aquarium, where I watched what would be my last dolphin show. Later we watched the belugas stereotypically circling their swimming pool. One had abrasions where it bumped the wall on every pass. I was saddened by their boredom and the poverty of their prison. A few months later I watched "Blackfish" and it blew my mind. I started reading more about cetaceans in captivity.
A recent dialogue about a future vacation to Roatan sums up my own change of heart. My husband wanted to visit a new resort. When I learned that they kept dolphins for shows and guest swims, I explained that I could never support that with our tourist dollars. Guess where we won't be staying?
Back to Voices In The Ocean - a wonderful book! You'll be entertained, educated, and entranced. Casey's writing is a kind of sorcery. She and the dolphins will work their magic as you read this book, and by the end you'll love and respect them more than ever before.
Feel like seeing what else people are doing to help whales and dolphins? Try these links:
Eva Saves The Whales
Petition SeaWorld: Stop Breeding Dolphins
Lolita's Hope - BRING ME HOME
U. S. to Ban Captivity of Some Beluga Whales (article)