Vancouver – June 20th, 1999
Despite the gloomy weather forecast, the sun came out and turned the city into glorious summer for the two days that CORKY’S FREEDOM BANNER went on display for Vancouverites at Jericho Beach park. Today, the day after, it’s raining again. When we began on Friday morning a light drizzle was just ending, but after we’d hung a couple of hundred meters of banner around the rails of the old Jericho Beach pier… framing the city’s centre… bits of blue began peeking through. By the time media arrived for a 1pm press conference announcing a campaign to hold a referendum about the future of Vancouver’s captive whales, the grass was dry enough to lay out long sections of banner along the walking/jogging trail that ended up stretching all the way to the park’s entrances in both directions. Corky’s tour bus FREEDOM, which is also home for her drivers David and Lisa, looked great parked on solid ground at the back of the pier. The setting was as perfect as the day, one’s eyes scanning naturally over the banner across to the city and Stanley Park where another captive orca, Bjossa, still languishes in a lonely tank. The Jericho site is rich with whale history… it’s the place where Moby Doll, the first captive orca held by the Vancouver Aquarium, died in a sea pen in 1964; and it’s the place where the first Greenpeace “save the whales” expedition was launched from and returned to in 1975.
Attracting visitors to see Corky’s message was as easy as standing still. There were no great crowds, but a steady trickle of people jogging or cycling or wandering by… stopping now and then to gaze at a particular patch thoughtfully, some seeking us out to ask questions. “Who is Corky?” was the most common. Just about everyone was surprised to find out that we were talking about an orca captured near to Vancouver long ago. And almost without exception, everyone we talked to agreed that she should be given a chance to go home.
On Friday evening we participated in an event at the Pacific Space Centre (formerly the Planetarium) attended by about 180 people. Th auditorium was small enough to feel comfortably crowded, and the audience wonderfully attentive. The show began with “Corky’s Journey”, a new video produced by Michael Harris and our daughter Anna. It was the first time we’d seen it on a big screen… it took our breath away and brought tears to many eyes. Thanks, you two! The end of the evening brought another treat. We’d taken along a tape of Wendy Hartford’s “Corky’s Ballad”, not expecting Wendy to be able to come and wanting the audience to hear her lovely song. So you can imagine our delight to arrive and find Wendy herself there, ready to perform. She did, bringing the show to a perfect close and more tears to our audience. Thanks, Wendy!
Day two was a genuinely lovely summer day from start to finish. We got high off the sun, the setting, the banner fluttering in the breeze, old friends dropping by, and the enthusiasm of those who were hearing Corky’s story for the first time. At the end, as we were rolling up long sections of banner, two young men out for an evening stroll stopped by. One had a small pack on his back. Both were cheerful, and inquisitive. “Who is Corky?” the conversation began. A while later, when Corky’s story had been told again, came the question, “How can we help?” After a thoughful moment we replied, “Well, probably the easiest and most useful thing you can do, if you’re a beer drinker, is to make sure you don’t drink Budweiser beer until Corky gets back home. The company that makes Bud is called Anheuser Busch and it owns Sea World. We’ve got a slogan going around that says “Bud’s out until Corky’s out” because we think they’d let Corky go free in a heartbeat if they though their beer sales were dropping because of her. So don’t drink Bud, and tell your friends not to too.” The fellow with the pack grinned broadly and laughed, “Is that right? Well, I’ve got a pack full of it on my back right now. I guess I’d better stop drinking it.” “Right”, we said, “and tell your friends not to too”. “Ok”, came the answer, along with a thumbs up wave as they wandered away chuckling. OK!
Thank you Vancouver! Thanks also to Annelise Sorg and the Coalition for No Whales in Captivity volunteers who came out to help so cheerfully… much appreciated!