Dr Ingrid Visser, from the Orca Research Trust of New Zealand, explains why Morgan is so valuable and what the options for Morgan are now. Dr Visser has been studying the wild orca population around New Zealand for decades and along with numerous other cetacean scientist she leads the fight to see Morgan back in the ocean. My thanks goes to Dr Ingrid for taking the time to talk to me about Morgan. I am also eternally grateful to Alexandra Johnston and Maria Nangle for helping me (sooo much!!) and to Dan Abbott for filming. This was filmed yonkers ago, a.k.a before The Virus!
Well, I think like most, I found 2020 it really put me off my stride. It was alway more of a bumbling waddle than a stride anyways, but yeah, what a mess. Here at the beginning of 2021 and I feel so frustrated at myself. I still haven’t worked out how to upload my little movie, I haven’t sent a postcard to Mr Kiessling (owner of Loro Parque and a.k.a my life long nemesis) in ages, I think over a year (!) and I feel like I really missed many an opportunity to ram home how awful Morgans life is given that we have all found ourselves in various levels of isolation over the last year. The brilliant thing for us however is we have incredible technology so no matter how low or alone we may feel we actually have out friends and family just a whatsapp away. And although I did personally mark the 10 year anniversary of her capture, I felt powerless and demoralised and just in a big old funk. Despite the feeling of lost momentum I have none the less spend hours thinking about Morgan and willing her to hold on. The fact that she has somehow endured now over 10 years in that tiny tank surly must be a testament to her strength of character.
I think that this last year has truly shined a light on the best and worst of humanity. All that we are capable when there is the will. So so with that in mind and also given the many hours I have spent isolating in hotels thinking what I want to do with my time on this planet, there is only one answer that keeps coming back: I want to free Morgan. I want to see her and her calf swimming in a sea sanctuary. I have rested to long, I have wasted to much time.
I have resolved myself to get up, dust off and keep bimbling on. I have given up (for now at least) attempting to upload the documentary and instead have edited together bite sized portions of the story. I hope that as a silver lining to my technological inadequacies these smaller clips will perhaps serve more purpose and may even be seen by more people. It’s not a sure fire plan B I have, but it’s what we are rolling with now people, so buckle up!
“It was clear to me that the success of my expedition had not depended on physical strength or dramatic acts of bravery but on the fact that at least some progress – however small – had been made every single day. It had not been about glorious heroism but the humblest of qualities, a quality that perhaps we all too often fail to appreciate for its worth – that of perseverance.” -Felicity Aston
“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” Tim Ferris
An update (at last!): I am on my way to Brussels to screen my little, rustic and very, very indie doco. It’s a seven hour bus ride so I decided that I am not allowed to read my book until I’ve written down something. While I can’t describe the documentary as “finished”, I got to the point where I could share my work with people and on the 20th of April I screened To Liberate a Blackfish for the first time. Fortunately the crowd was made up of mostly friends and family, bless them, literally the same people who have listened to me banging on about Morgan for the last 9 years, but it was lovely to have a room full of love and support. The Nottage in Wivenhoe is such a fantastic venue, full of nautical treasures, half models, historic pictures and shippy tomes galore (in short, it is a heavenly place). It also happens to be right next door to the The Rose and Crown which was extra grand 'cause the screening did not start on time as, of course, there was the classic "technical hitch". The hitch was my technical ineptitude and my unawareness really of what a HDMI cable is or does or wants in order that it talks to other electrical bits and pieces. Anyway Sarah Hollie Hoy and more specifically her lover, Phil Sadler, came to the rescue and after a quick dash home (luckily just down the river a skip) we were back on track. The showing itself highlighted some sound issues and the fact that I had been a littttttle heavy handed with the old "Ken Burns" effect. Everyone added their names to my Free Morgan banner and then we all piled over to The Station, a.k.a The Best Pub in the World. The next screening was at Leeds University, kindly organised by my friend Sian (Shaaaawwwwnn to the OL crew). It was a joint event between the Subaqua club and the Marine Conservation Soc so those in attendance were definitely fellow lovers of all things ocean. And being that the ocean is currently bereft of one particular non-human person who we know as Morgan it was great to have such an audience for the second screening. They asked some great questions and seemed keen to help the cause. Happily all signed the banner too. With a few of the many “kinks” ironed out I headed to Manchester recently to screen at Ice Shake, a vegan ice-cream parlour and basically a haven for people who care about the planet and the other animals who inhabit it with us. It was not a big crowd but the quality was superb (said in the voice of a 60’s Brooklyn Mobster,just fYI). Suzie Q from The Lab and one of the great bull-kelp musicians in the film was in attendance and Alex and Maria where there too. They are producing their first documentary which is trying to understand and help the declining and (if we don’t take serious action) soon extinct Southern Resident orca. It is always so restorative to be with the Searching for Chinook gals, they are so focused and determined. They help me see answers to problems that I have been struggling with. Sometimes when I am considering a problem I am almost blinkered into thinking "okay the answer must lay this way" and I blindly trudge on, but after talking to Maria she will say something and gently be like “have you considered this? or tried this way?, or emphasised that point?” and I feel a very literal “doh, of course!”. Anyways that is all to say I am suuuuuuper grateful to those two! On the way back from Manchester I edited together a little trailer thing which I will use to try and gather support and maybe further funding to continue the editing process. I will be sharing that soon. A concern that often arises if I get to talking to people about Morgan is the worry that she may die if we got her back to the ocean. This is an understandable worry and the logical answers that my brain gives to answer this concern is this: Once we get Loro Parque to agree that the ocean is the best place for Morgan it would still be a very timely and painstakingly slow process. We wouldn’t be just picking her up, plonking her back in the big blue and dusting our hands of her. Because she is now a mother it would be unethical to take her away from her calf. It would similarly be unethical to release that calf into the wild populations with its mish mash of confused DNA. So Morgan and her calf would live out there lives in a "Sea Sanctuary", a large expanse of water cordoned off and monitored. The Free Morgan foundation has potential sites, mainly fjords in Norway already investigated for their viability. Once in the Sanctuary the orca would be weaned off the anti-botics and anti-depressants, whilst their muscle mass was built up through exercise. In a Sanctuary it is very likely that they would remain reliant on humans for food and potentially dental care. However they would no longer be forced to preform and they could explore and investigate the complex and diverse underwater world. They would have the currents and tides, the changing sea states, the quiet stary nights overhead and be enveloped in the cool salty water. If Loro Parque sells Morgans baby, Ula, (as is often the case with entertainment parks) or if she dies (also a reality- given the life expectancy of a captive born orca is on average 6 years) then that opens up the possibility of reuniting Morgan with her family. The answer my heart wants to give to the concern Morgan may die if returned to the ocean is this: I can’t help but imagine it was myself in her situation. I place myself in an imaginary concrete box devoid of any of my normal natural sounds, with no fresh air or breeze. This concrete box is way from Tariq, my family and my friends. It contains not a single thing to distract me. To take this analogy further and to make it more accurate I have to imagine that occasionally others enter the box, but when they do I cannot understand them and they are incessantly aggressive and often violent towards me. On top of all that, I would have to somehow find the strength to preform a sadistic show three times a day, every. single. day. doing things I could and would never do out in the course of my normal life. To preform like this is the only way I can get food, and even that food is drugged with antibiotics and anti-depressents. This is the life that Morgan endures. However it is even worse than all of that because she was impregnated and became a mother at a very young age. This fact, the true horror of it, it is a violation that I can not even bring myself to deal with or imagine. Morgans pregnancy is a complete and absolute contravention of the CITES permit. Either deliberately or through incompetence and ignorance of what was going on with their Orca, the staff at Loro Parque allowed the once wild orca to become pregnant. So when people say she might die if taken back to the ocean, I can only imagine it would be sweet, blessed relief from the hell we have forced her to live for the last nine years. I know that I would choose death with the breeze on my face and soil between my toes over life in a stagnant, concrete, hell-of-a-box. Morgans DNA belongs to the ocean and every minute of every hour that we keep her we grow further in debt. The fact Morgan has survived so long is surely a testament to her mental strength and her will to survive. But I think if we achieve nothing else for her we should provide her the dignity of death in Neptune's realm. A couple of weeks ago I was chatting about this all, with a friend, Jasmine. I was lamenting about how slow and small scale the progress seems. In her wisdom she told me "a snail doesn't go backwards". This really, *really* resonated. It is a thought what keeps me trying, because ultimately it may all be too slow, my efforts may not be enough, I may fail and Morgan may breath her last breath in that terrible place, but, I know, sure as sure can be, the moment I do stop trying is the moment I have definitely failed her. So, my friends, onwards à la snail!
Right, so I'm pretty rubbish at this blog lark and especially now that I'm so close to finishing the edit. Every time I sit down to update the blog and tell my lovely backers how its going, I feel the press of guilt: “I should be spending this time on the actual work”. But, but, today I have a lovely 6 hour train journey back from Manchester after seeing the Searching for Chinook ladies and showing a fairly rough cut of The Edit. It's so strange having worked on it for months and getting so used to it and how incredibly different it is when you sit down to watch it with another human being. I immediately saw things to change and cut and move about. I'm also kinda quietly impressed that I have actually produced something, it's not beautiful or ground breaking and it is far from perfection and I could spend years tweaking with and polishing it but that would serve no purpose to Morgan so I must continually remind myself that I strive for progress not perfection. I set out to tell Morgans story as well as I can, I feel like what happened to her is so obviously wrong so if more people know about it it can only help the effort to get her and now her calf a more dignified future. Now that I am getting really close to the the finish I am so worried that Morgan will die and the documentary will achieved nothing. But I'm trying to remain focused and positive. If you can help or know of an independent cinema that may be okay with me screen ing it, or know of a community or save group I could come and show andtalk to please do let me know, email: email@example.com Thanks again for the support and help you've given me.
Well, halfway through the month and I officially hit my minimum Kickstarter goal so am officially Kickstarted. Yay! So that's been a really interesting learning curve. I'm not really to great at promoting and so to have my friends and family so readily support me has been so wondeful. I also got a message from a award winning composer offering her services to the cause. I tell you when I received the message I was sitting in Vancouver airport and I shocked people sitting around me with the gasp of excitement I made. Music is so important to a film I think and so this is a big and super awesome development. We have set up a meeting and I can not wait to get editing started. I have a few more elements I need to film and then I can hopefully be cracking on with the edit by end of November.