Corky’s 35 wasted years – December 11th 2004

Corky’s 35 wasted years

Incredibly, it is now 35 years since the fateful night when Corky’s family, later to become known as the “A5 pod”, swam through the narrow entrance of British Columbia’s Pender Harbour and into the nets of waiting fishermen.   It was the beginning of a long, torturous journey for Corky.   During the early years at Marineland of the Pacific, Corky saw the deaths of 3 of her closest kin, pod mates who were also captured at Pender Harbour and shared her tiny circular tank.   Years later when she had matured, Corky became pregnant 6 times, only to experience the deaths of all of her babies – the longest-lived survived just 46 days. After she was sold to Sea World San Diego in 1987, Corky suffered the loss of her long time close companion, Orky, and then endured a violent attack by a pool mate who died as a result.   Year after year of excruciatingly boring existence followed, during which Corky has swum in circles within the concrete walls of her Sea World tank literally millions of times.   Her days are punctuated by “shows” in which Corky performs for the amusement of crowds as if she were a clown – then she returns to her “holding tank” and continues pacing.  

Were Corky a terrestrial animal pacing within a cage, her endless circling would long ago have left deep rutted tracks behind.   Corky’s tracks are made in water and therefore invisible, but they are there just the same.   How an individual with the complex social, sensory, and habitat needs of orcas could possibly withstand the stress of such an existence is very difficult to imagine.   Corky’s durability, suffering so much for so long, testifies to her strength as an individual – most orcas held as captives don’t survive past 10 years.   Without question, Corky is an extraordinary being.   It is because of this undeniable fact that we retain hope that Corky can return to live a “normal” life in the wild – if she is given the chance!

Looking for parallels in the human world, we cannot avoid thinking about Nelson Mandela.   After being imprisoned for 27 years, this extraordinary man emerged into   a life of freedom and became not just a functional person again, but an inspiring leader of his people.   Corky’s term of incarceration is now much longer, yet she still survives… quite simply put, Corky is a survivor !

To us, this means that Corky still has a chance to return to a life in the ocean… to hear the comforting sounds of her infancy once more, to chase fish, to rub her body against her kin and glide over the soft beds of stones that make up the “rubbing beaches” of her ancestral home.   Corky can come home, we are convinced of that.   Springer’s story helps us hold to this faith, but even more importantly, Corky herself convinces us that one day she should be free.  

On this day of remembering, please hold Corky in your thoughts.

And please remember: ” Bud’s out until Corky’s out! “.   Thank you!  

Those of you who are in the San Francisco area have a chance to attend a wonderful house concert for Corky with Erika Luckett on December 18 th .   The concert will be hosted by Thursday Child’s skipper Michael Reppy at his home in Mill Valley. See for information or email Michael at [email protected] .

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