The White Whale
The White Whale
When bob wright awoke on Sunday March 1, 1970, he didn’t feel like getting in a boat. He had attended a wedding reception late into the previous night, and the morning in Victoria had broken cold and blustery. But he had promised to show his whale-catching operation to Don White, Paul Spong’s former research assistant. Wright already had an orca at his new oceanarium, Sealand of the Pacific, but he was keen to try his hand at capture, and he especially hoped to trap an albino killer whale often seen in local waters. When White and a friend arrived for the excursion, however, Wright wasn’t feeling very eager. “Bob is totally hung over, but he is feeling responsible,” White recalled. “He has told me to come, so he feels like we’ve got to do it.” Along with trainer Graeme Ellis, the three men piled onto Wright’s twenty-foot Bertram runabout and started for Pedder Bay. As the boat rounded Trial Island and cruised west past Victoria, the sea became choppy and Wright grew queasier. But minutes later, as they approached Race Rocks, he forgot all about his hangover. “Fuck!” he yelled. “It’s the white whale!” Sure enough, a group of orcas with what appeared to be an albino member was passing Bentinck Island and heading straight for Pedder Bay. The sighting was lucky, but the timing awful. Wright wasn’t set for a capture that day. His seine nets were in storage, and at first he couldn’t hail any of his Sealand staff. Determined not to let this opportunity pass, he gunned the Bertram into the bay and made straight for the Lakewood—a charter fishing boat he had rigged for orca catching. As Wright gathered his crew on the vessel, the excitement was palpable. “We were playing macho whale hunters,” White reflected, “and Bob Wright was our Captain Ahab.” With only one light net on board, the operation would have to be perfect, and everyone watched anxiously as the whales lingered near the mouth of Pedder Bay. Finally, as the sun began to set, the orcas entered.
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