We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website. By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Find out more

Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University's objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide.

Print Price: $32.95

392 pp.
40 halftones, 6.125" x 9.25"


Publication date:
May 2018

Imprint: OUP US


How We Came to Know and Love the Ocean's Greatest Predator

Jason M. Colby

Since the release of the documentary Blackfish in 2013, millions around the world have focused on the plight of the orca, the most profitable and controversial display animal in history. Yet, until now, no historical account has explained how we came to care about killer whales in the first place.

Drawing on interviews, official records, private archives, and his own family history, Jason M. Colby tells the exhilarating and often heartbreaking 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. In the Pacific Northwest, fishermen shot them, scientists harpooned them, and the Canadian government mounted a machine gun to eliminate them. But that all changed in 1965, when Seattle entrepreneur Ted Griffin became the first person to swim and perform with a captive killer whale. The show proved wildly popular, and he began capturing and selling others, including Sea World's first Shamu.

Over the following decade, live display transformed views of Orcinus orca. The public embraced killer whales as charismatic and friendly, while scientists enjoyed their first access to live orcas. In the Pacific Northwest, these captive encounters reshaped regional values and helped drive environmental activism, including Greenpeace's anti-whaling campaigns. Yet even as Northwesterners taught the world to love whales, they came to oppose their captivity and to fight for the freedom of a marine predator that had become a regional icon.

Orca is the definitive history of how the feared and despised "killer" became the beloved "orca" - and what that has meant for our relationship with the ocean and its creatures.

Readership : Suitable for those interested in whales, the environment, and the Pacific Northwest; animal history; marine biology.

1. "The Most Terrible Jaws Afloat"
2. The Old Northwest
3. Griffin's Quest
4. Murray Newman and Moby Doll
5. Namu's Journey
6. A Boy and His Whale
7. Fishing for Orcas
8. Skana and the Hippie
9. The Scores at Pender Harbor
10. Supply and Demand
11. The White Whale
12. Penn Cove Roundup
13. Whaling in the New Northwest
14. Big Government and Big Business
15. The Legend of Mike Bigg
16. "All hell broke loose"
17. New Frontiers
18. Haida's Song
19. The Legacy of Capture

There are no Instructor/Student Resources available at this time.

Jason M. Colby is an environmental and international historian at the University of Victoria. Born in Victoria, British Columbia, and raised in the Seattle area, he worked as a commercial fisherman in Alaska and Washington State. He is the author of The Business of Empire: United Fruit, Race, and US Expansion in Central America.

Minding Animals - Marc Bekoff
The Ethics of Captivity - Edited by Lori Gruen

Special Features

  • Explains how the capture and display of orcas helped transform the environmental politics of the Pacific Northwest and beyond.
  • Shows how the captivity industry, now criticized as the enemy of orcas, helped generate the public affection and scientific study of killer whales and other cetaceans.
  • Discusses the ongoing debate over dolphin/whale captivity and the future of SeaWorld and the oceanarium industry.
  • Author has unusual access to sources, including interviews of Ted Griffin-the first person to swim with and display a killer whale.