A Personal Note
I took my time with this story wanted to carefully choose words and pictures.
I remember my mom had a beautiful book about whales when I was little, full with wonderful underwater images, poems but also tons of information about hunting rituals, which people used to do with whale body parts.
They created umbrellas, lipsticks and shoe polish . Also they used its specific oil for lamps.
That book with its pictures influenced my work very much. And on the other hand it made me fall in love with those creatures.
The movie Orca – The Killerwhale came out 1977 but I probably watched it ten years later on german television. Basically a very unpleasant fisherman wants to hunt a male orca, he shots and kills accidently the female with a baby inside. Until then the male killerwhale is seeking for revenge for its murdered family. It was never a really famous movie since everybody thought its a cheap remake for JAWS. I was on the orca side throughout the movie and somehow wished they could do revenge in real life too.
I heard about Seaworld and their idea of capturing and training this wild animal. Since I am in California I was thinking about going there but had to capture a strong moment myself for seeing this animal for the first time ever – but caged.
After the documentary ‘Blackfish’ I thought it will be an empty amusement park- who could still think of this as entertainment? But it was very crowded when I arrived early in the morning on a regular weekday. The parks advertisment is full of extremly hysterical smiling people that works out as far as I can see.
First of all getting into Seaworld is a very pricey adventure, I paid 84 Dollars to get in plus another 39 Dollars to ‘Dine with Shamu’. And yet Seaworld is not different from the outside american world, they want you to buy and consume. Seaworld San Diego has in its total as far as I could count fifteen shops and twelve restaurants. During the Shamu show called One Ocean you can buy silly hats, toys, towels and beverages. You enter an animal area walk shortly through it and get confronted at the end with a huge shop full of shirts, toys and keychains.
As I seen Shamu the first orca in my life, I was very touched and excited, I gently blend in the line of all the other fascinated gathering people. Before the show started I walked around the pools. I thought they have like three or four orcas, but I counted 7 including a baby.
The show started, with loud loud Seaworld Commercials. Then the trainers showed a up and suddenly there it was again, I recognized that crazy smile from the commercials. Since the last deadly accident at Seaworld the trainers are not allowed to go into the pool with the whales. Therefore the show transformed into a splashing event. I do not know what to think of it and walk the park after the show.
They also have an artic section which is I have to say detailed and thoughtfully decorated. Then there are the beluga whales…so beautiful, white like snow. I watch them doing they circles in this very little pool. I am trying to think of something nice about it but I can’t so I leave. I pass the penguins on a moving walkway, trying to get a glimpse of them but the glass is too steamy and of course a shop shows up with penguin toys at the end.
I make my way through and look at the rest of the park which seems surprisingly empty. There is also not much to see anymore, a big pool with mantas and a restaurant again. So I walk back to see the One Ocean show again.
The second time is much more disturbing. The same annoying very loud commercial, the same trainers but less people. The sun decided to call it a day too. Shamu and the others splash water against empty seats. Thats it: get dead animals as food, do stuff you would never be doing, listen to the same thing over and over again, hear people laugh about you. If that would be a human, we would call it a slave. And that should be over by now.
Great post. Yes, after seeing Blackfish I look at Seaworld in a very different way. I have been there a couple times, and have decided there will be no future visits.