There are no orcas to speak of in Western literature. Although they look like mythic creatures, with their sleek bodies, panda-like colors, and pointy-toothed grins, killer whales don’t figure as characters in our great novels. There’s no orca equivalent of Moby Dick, the great white whale.
Many of us, though, do have an image of orcas, one informed by films of them performing in aquarium shows, such as those at SeaWorld—swimming in endless circles in tiny, sterile pools or leaping for our amusement. Some think captive orcas suffer severe psychological trauma from their sadly shrunken lives.
And that’s heartbreaking, because when you’re out with orcas in the wild, you sense what no show can ever capture: their spirit and sagacity, their joy and cunning, their love of the open ocean and of hunting and of life.