Moby Doll was harpooned at East Point, Saturna Island in July 1964 but the shot was supposed to end with a kill, not a capture. The Vancouver Aquarium wanted a dead killer whale for study and to model for a large sculpture that was to hang in the new aquarium’s foyer. The harpooned whale was only injured, however, and Vancouver Aquarium director Dr. Murray Newman quickly decided to lead the wounded orca to Vancouver Harbour for study.
Moby Doll thus became the first killer whale to be captured and displayed in public but the orca survived for just under three months. However, during that brief time, Moby Doll became an international media super-star. Life Magazine, Reader’s Digest, The Times of London, major television networks as well as many Canadian and US newspapers, magazines and television stations, sent reporters and correspondents to Vancouver to tell this whale of a tale to world-wide audiences. More importantly, Moby Doll’s capture marked the beginning of a world-wide scientific quest to learn more about orcas. And today, because we know so much more about this beautiful, majestic animal, we’re well on our way to making sure that orcas continue to thrive in their natural habitats and thrill many of our future generations.
A special event, Moby Doll Orca Symposium: Reflection of Change, was held on Saturna, May 25, 2013 to honour Moby Doll and reflect on that time in history.