Drawing on interviews, official records, private archives, and his own family history, Jason M. Colby tells the story of how people came to love the ocean's greatest predator. Historically reviled as dangerous pests, killer whales were dying by the hundreds, even thousands, by the 1950s–the victims of whalers, fishermen, and even the US military.
Jason Colby has more than a historian's perspective on the era when orca whales were trapped and sold for profit and entertainment all over the world ... he tells [the Orca whales' legend] with the depth and passion the topic deserves.
It is a story not just of the orca business, but also of the evolution of Americans’ relationship to the oceans and marine life—the growth of marine parks parallels the shift from an extractive approach to the ocean, as mainly a source of fish, to a recreational one. It intersects, too, with the birth of the modern environmental movement in the 1960s and 70s ... For a generation that grew up on Shamu or Free Willy, anecdotes that Colby shares of orca hunters in 'the Old Northwest' are shocking ... As the backlash against the industry rises, the irony is clear: The captivity and display industry made people love orcas, and then hate the captivity and display industry. This is the central thrust of Colby’s book, and he returns to the point throughout ... More interesting, to me, than the judgment of history, are the moral compasses of the crying men themselves, who knew—well before Greenpeace protestors and Blackfish and the Marine Mammal Protection Act—that the animals they were hurting were sentient and sensitive; that they were doing something wrong ... it’s also a story of the intellectual hoops that we humans will jump through, like well-trained marine mammals, in order to justify the harm done in the course of making a living, or just doing whatever we want.
Colby shines a light on how little we understand of these magnificent creatures. His book gives a glimpse into a mysterious yet strangely familiar world, brought to life in a story that's tragic, heartbreaking, and finally hopeful.