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Slaying the killer whale myth

Published on October 10, 2017 3:37PM

Society’s changing attitudes toward orcas or killer whales are at the heart of the Saturday, Oct. 21, meeting of the Oregon Chapter of the American Cetacean Society.

Guest speaker Mark Leiren-Young, a journalist, filmmaker and author from Victoria, British Columbia, will present on his recent book, “The Killer Whale Who Changed The World,” which tells the story of the first orca held in captivity.

“Killer whales had always been seen as bloodthirsty sea monsters,” he said. “That all changed when a young killer whale was captured off the west coast of North America and displayed to the public in 1964.”

The whale, which became known as Moby Doll, was an instant celebrity, drawing 20,000 visitors on the one and only day he was exhibited. He died within a few months, but his famous gentleness sparked a worldwide crusade that transformed how people understood and appreciated orcas.

“Because of Moby Doll, we stopped fearing ‘killers,’” Leiren-Young said, “and grew to love and respect ‘orcas.’”

Leiren-Young is the author of numerous books, including “Never Shoot a Stampede Queen,” for which he won the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour, and “The Green Chain,” based on his award-winning film of the same name. His article for the Walrus about Moby Doll was a finalist for the National Magazine Award, and he won the Jack Webster award for his CBC Idea’s radio documentary “Moby Doll: The Whale that Changed the World.”

He is currently finishing a feature length film documentary on Moby Doll.

The meeting, which is free and open to all, starts at 10 am at Newport Public Library, 35 NW Nye Street.

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