Stellar Rainbow wheels her car around the corner and Sea comes into view, "There, what do you think?"
Bondi Beach is a busy eastern suburb close to downtown Sydney. It is a favorite surfing area and lots of colorful surfboards dot the long gray swells of the Tasman Sea. Towels, umbrellas, bodies and running figures festoon the beach. There is an artificial rock breakwater and a fenced in swimming area at the north end of the beach. Estelle thinks the swimming area would be a delightful place to have a dolphin sea side park.
As we drive towards it, I explain, "Estelle, during the winter there can be some pretty severe storms around here. Try to imagine this place with an 80-knot winter storm blasting in from the sea. The dolphins would be mince-meat trapped in the pen. Also, there are too many people. Not to mention the fact the people are in the habit of using the swimming area themselves."
Estelle begins to fume, "I've already contacted the right people, you know. It's all arranged and I know Bulley will just love it." On and on she goes. Storms be damned, People will find it convenient. Estelle wants the dolphin sea side park right there and the only reason I'm objecting is to make her life difficult.
Freddy sits in the back seat and says absolutely nothing. Estelle, angry and petulant, careens us back to downtown Sydney and lets us off near Terry's place.
"Hey," Terry greets us, "I saw you on the 11AM show this morning. It was terrific."
"Thanks. They did a great job. I liked the way they showed the clips of dolphins in the wild and compared those to wide angle shots of the dolphins in the pool at the Lion Park." I hand Terry some petitions.
"The Moira looked great, too," Freddy chimes in. "Do you think many people watched it?"
"Sure, it's a very popular show." Terry glances at his watch. He's always in a rush. "You should try to get a copy of the tape."
Freddy and I head off for McDonald's and a movie. After a year and a half in PNG we can't get enough of movies, TV and Junk Food. We gobble down our big macs, greasy fries and sinus-freezing shakes. Hand in hand, we roll out into the Sydney night with an hour to kill before the movie. Slowly, we amble aimlessly to the Hilton Hotel, looking in the glittering department store windows. In the Hotel lobby Freddy grabs my arm, "Hey, isn't that Mike Nelson from Sea Hunt?"
Lloyd Bridges walks out the door and gets into a car. I run after him and tap on the car window. He rolls it down and I blurt out, "My name is Dr. Richard Chesher. I'm a marine biologist...." I give him a 5 minute quicky about the dolphins and hand him a petition, and a blurb about the sea side dolphin park. While I speak he smiles at me, his bright blue eyes glowing in the darkened car. There are three silver-haired ladies in the car. They cheer me on with, "What can we do to help?"
"Call me tomorrow," Lloyd writes a number on a piece of paper and hands it to me. They drive off. Freddy and I walk back to the theater and after the movie we walk back to the Ferry. It chugs us to Mosman Landing and we walk the rest of the way back to Moira. We talk all the way about how Lloyd Bridges might be able to help.
I enter the ABC building and stop at the elevators. A guard looks up from a newspaper, "Can I help you?"
"I'm supposed to be on the Carolyn Jones Show this morning," He looks me over and picks up the phone.
"What's your name?" he asks and repeats it into the phone. "OK, go on up. They'll meet you at the elevator on the 4th floor."
The Carolyn Jones Show is a popular morning radio talk show, broadcast to all of Australia. A man ushers me into a functional looking studio crammed with electronic gear. Carolyn Jones takes off an oversized set of earphones and smiles. "I've been following your adventures with the dolphins and looking forward to meeting you. Thank you for agreeing to be on the show today."
We discuss the general orientation of the talk until a man behind a glass wall raps on the window and signals we are about to go on the air, live.
The highlight of the show comes about ten minutes later when none other than Smarmington-Beaker, the Public Relations man from the Lion Park - calls the studio. Carolyn patches him onto the airways and he starts right in by contradicting my claim about the pool being inadequate. I always refer to it as the "little swimming pool" knowing how it infuriates Smarmington-Beaker and those who wasted more than a million dollars on it.
"The dolphinarium is not a swimming pool. It has been scientifically designed as a dolphinarium." This is the same lead line he used on the Willosy show. No doubt read from his sleazy script.
I decide he has come up with an answer to my comment about the issue being a moral one. I suspect I know what it is. I've been baiting them for awhile with this opening. I feed him the same reply I gave him on TV. It can't fail to hurt them. "It's not a question of the design of the swimming pool, it's not actually a scientific question at all. The real issue is whether or not keeping dolphins captive in a tiny cement hole in the ground and killing them to enjoy their circus tricks is morally the kind of thing Humans should do to a creature like the dolphins."
"Yes," Smarmington-Beaker pounces, "I thought you'd say that. After all, you would like to avoid any possible scientific argument because you are not at all qualified to discuss the issue from a scientific standpoint. Exactly what are your credentials, Doctor Chesher?"
Got you, you creep. "OK. Without going into detail, I received my Doctor of Philosophy degree from the Institute of Marine Science in Miami, Florida in 1967. The same year, I joined the staff of Harvard University's Museum of Comparative Zoology specializing in coral reef and echinoderm systematics and ecology. I am a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Institute of Biological Sciences, and a life-time member of the Systematics Association.
"While at Harvard, I participated in conferences with the U.S. Navy on the use of the NR-1 Nuclear research submersibles for scientific research, dove on the research submersible Alvin with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, and conducted surveys on Coral reefs for the Government of Colombia. I left Harvard to become Chief Scientist on a survey of the Crown of Thorns Starfish in the North Pacific for the U.S. Department of the Interior. You can read about the project in the March 1970 issue of National Geographic. I went to work for Westinghouse Ocean Research Laboratory as manager for marine ecology and conducted research on the impact of man on marine environments for the United States Environmental Protection Agency.
"I participated in NASA's Tektite II underwater habitat experiment in the Virgin Islands. The experiment, concerning the impact of pollution on coral reef ecosystems, was also written up by National Geographic. I've published over 40 scientific articles on marine science and two books. I have been working in the Pacific area steadily since 1975 and have conducted research in the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea. I consider my field of study to be the impact of man on marine environments. This includes the impact of man on marine mammals, especially when they are subjected to the shocking treatment you give them out there at the Lion Park Safari."
"Thank you, Dr. Chesher," Carolyn Jones smiles into the microphone, "That's certainly an impressive list of credentials - at least I'm impressed. And thank you, Mr. Smarmington-Beaker, for calling in today. Lets take a break here and return in just a moment."
Forty five minutes later I am shaking her hand, laughing, agreeing to come back again for another show as things develop.
Carolyn Jones is sharp and quick and extraordinarily nice. No wonder she is a celebrity. I go down the elevator and as I walk out into the lobby the guard stops me, "Good on ya, Mate. Give `em hell. I seen them dolphins on TV yesterday. Sorry I didn't recognize ya, OK? I'm right behind ya. Right?"
"Right, thanks," I smile and shake the offered hand.
I grab a taxi and ride over to the offices of the Parks and Wildlife Service. Jack Giles meets me with his coat over his arm, ready to go. We drive over to Mosman in his car. "I heard you on the Carolyn Jones show this morning." I don't respond and after a moment he continues, "I must say I like the way you suckered Smarmington-Beaker into questioning your credentials. You certainly got him there."
We meet Lindsay, the pilot, at the Bateau Chateau and go out to the sea plane. Lindsay has the red Cessna with the big Channel 7 emblem on the side all ready to go. We taxi out into the bay and roar off into the sky. David Hooker agreed to fly us around to look at prospective park sites for free and Jack Giles could not resist a free ride in a sea plane. We rise up over the bluffs of Jackson Harbor and turn south, crossing downtown Sydney, getting a grand view of the bridge, opera house, and the new Centerpoint spire.
"Have you been in the revolving restaurant there yet?" I ask Giles.
"I didn't think it was open. Is it?" he yells over the sound of the engine.
"It will be soon, I guess. We met the owner at one of David Hooker's parties and went up to have a look at it." This is meant to impress Giles and it seems to work.
We fly out of the Sydney area and over a long stretch of forested coastline. There are two bays within the National Park and Lindsay circles round them while Giles and I take photos. We head north, passing over the coastline and the crowded beach at Bondi where Estelle wants to put the park. Giles does not like her selection any better than I do.
A National Park borders the northwest shore of Pittwater Bay. A large, deep embayment with a narrow neck dents the Park. It is called, The Basin. Lindsay circles above it and we snap photographs. "We could build a small complex over there on the flat land at the head of the bay, where that building is." I point at the area. Giles nods his head and takes a photograph. The park is a big chunk of land and has many embayments. We cruise around looking them over but none have the characteristics of the first one.
On the way back to Mosman, Giles leans over and yells, "Do you have any personal commercial interest in this?" In other words, why are you doing this?
"No," I yell back. "In fact it's costing me a great deal of time and money and I expect to be leaving here shortly and won't even be around to see it happen if it does."
"What about your book?" he yells, looking at me closely. No doubt Bulley has been claiming I'm doing all this to sell my book.
"My book has nothing to do with this. My agent does not think they will be able to get it into print before next Christmas anyway so if I was trying to promote my book I've sort of jumped the gun, don't you think?"
"Yeah, I guess so." He sounds unconvinced.
"If I had a book in hand and on the shelves, I'm sure my actions lately would help sell it. By Christmas it will all be over and I'll be long gone. Besides my major market for the book is in the U.S. not here."
Lindsay drops the little plane into Middle Harbor and we skim along towards the landing. It's fun and Giles is grinning as we get out of the plane. "How about you and Freddy coming over for dinner one night next week?" says Jake Giles.
"Wonderful, we'd love to." I answer, surprised.
"OK, I'll give you a call." he turns and climbs the stairs.
Freddy and I go to have lunch at the Cape Horner's Association with a neighbor of the Hooker's. These characters are sailors who have sailed round Cape Horn in one of the old square-riggers. It is an old association, founded when Australia was a prison colony. Its members are all elderly men. The lunch is a success. The old sailors have an ageless respect for the Sea and especially for dolphins. They agree to pass out petitions and support the freeing of the dolphins.
After lunch, I visit Christine Townsend at Animal Liberation. As we talk, a man named Marloe Dumphy, head of the Environmental Center on Pitt Street (the offices of Greenpeace and the Jonah Foundation), stomps in.
"We at the Environment Center are very much opposed to your scheme to have a sea-side dolphin park." He greets me. He goes on to explain at great length how the park would be an attack on the environment, requiring the construction of roads, parking lots, and buildings in what is now a pristine wilderness.
"You have a good point," I agree, "except I've just come back from flying over the place and there are already forestry roads through the park and even a small house on the edge of the Basin used as a weekend camp site by the Boy Scouts. The Basin is also frequented regularly by boats. Pittwater is a major recreational boating area. Within a mile of the Basin there is a whole suburb full of people. Lots of campers and hikers and boaters use the area as a recreational park. So it's hardly a pristine wilderness. But I do agree the amount of construction should be kept to a minimum."
I return to the Bateau Chateau in a foul mood. Giles's questioning of my motives followed by the declaration of open opposition by the Environment Center has made me wonder why the hell I didn't take the advise of the I Ching and stay the hell out of this mess. I walk in and the phone rings.
"Hello? Dr. Chesher? This is Ilona Roberts. I met you some time ago with Sydney Holt of the Jonah Foundation."
"Sure, how are you Ilona?"
"Fine. Listen, I was talking to Sandy Walker who works with us here at the Jonah Foundation and she told me about your meeting with Greenpeace last week."
"Well, I thought you might like to know there was a meeting between Greenpeace and Jonah some time ago and they decided not to help because they couldn't figure out who you were and what you were after. They kept saying, What's his angle?"
"Really? You can't figure out my angle? What about all the people at the Pitt Street Environment Center? Why are you in Jonah? Why are they in Greenpeace? Who the hell are you? What's YOUR angle?" Furious, I slam down the receiver.
"God DAMN!" I shout at the phone. It rings. I pick it up.
Estelle reports, "I'm calling to say I am withdrawing my energies because I don't think the dolphins are getting a fair shake. All my efforts seem to be doing is promoting Dr. Rick Chesher. We all feel this way, including Nancy and Angela." She hangs up. It is the shortest speech she's ever made.
I call Nancy at Whale Beach. She is not home but her daughter Claire answers. I tell her about my call from Estelle and she says, "Well, last night it suddenly occurred to us, here it was again. The women doing all the work and one man taking all the credit. It looks like a one man show to the public."
"So you think I'm promoting my own interests? Well, you're right. I am and I intend to go on promoting my own interests. As it happens my interests are seeing the dolphins back in the sea, and whatever it takes to accomplish this is exactly what I intend to do. If your interests lie in promoting an image of yourself and Estelle prancing around in the limelight go to it and best of luck."
I am shaking with fatigue, anger, frustration and disappointment as I hang up the phone. I should not have bit Ilona. Hell, she called me up and I didn't even hear her out. Damn. And damn Estelle for all her bullshit. I know she got on Nancy's case and came up with this stupid crap about women doing all the work and me getting all the credit. I fell right into her trap and called Nancy and popped off at Claire. Stellar Rainbow would screw up anything rather than see herself upstaged. But of course, this is exactly, 100%, what the I Ching warned me about. I have flowed with the events and wound up antagonizing my friends. I have started a war, and have been anything but shy and modest. My own anger and fatique is a perfect example of how I defeat my own purposes.
Freddy comes in to the Bateau Chateau and announces, "Dinner's ready for the Bridges what's the matter with you?"
At 7 PM Lloyd Bridges and his wife Dorothy come down the stairs, get into the dinghy and I motor them out to the Moira. Freddy has the boat looking spotless and she serves a delicious chicken cacciatore complete with garlic bread and wine. Lloyd is here doing an episode for Love Boat and, by coincidence, David Hooker's wife Ursrula is also in the episode.
"Lloyd, Mike Nelson was my teenage hero. I think you probably were responsible for a huge number of people getting into SCUBA diving in the U.S. I used to watch your show when I was in high school and I got my first aqualung when I was 17 because it looked so interesting. I went down to Florida and took a professional diving course with Carl Gage's Diving Academy. I was a commercial diver and boat bum long before I decided to become a marine scientist to justify my diving/boating existence. In many ways, it all started with you. So it's a special moment for me to have you here aboard the Moira and to be able to thank you, in person, for helping me be here today."
Lloyd Bridges looks embarrassed and shrugs, "Well, Rick, Mike Nelson would be happy to hear that. I know I am, but Mike was a long time ago for both of us." He holds up his glass and toasts, "Here's to Mike Nelson." and we all drink.
"I passed the petition around the crew and we all signed it," he offers me the rumpled petition crowded with signatures, his own prominent at the top. "I hope it helps get those dolphins out of that little swimming pool."
"My son happens to be making a movie," says Lloyd. "The movie is about a marine biologist who becomes a hippy on a yacht. He gets involved with catching dolphins for a dolphinarium to make some money. He gets so fond of the dolphins he sets them free and they follow him on his yacht to an island. The police come after him and catch the dolphins again...."
After they have gone, I sit thinking about the I Ching. At the moment it appears its prophecy has come true. I've alienated my friends and the conservation groups and am, indeed, a wanderer in a strange land, alone. The question about my "ulterior motives" has come up, exactly as predicted, and the battle with the system has kept me from working on the book project. I fall asleep wondering when I will stop beating my head against the wall.
I finish the draft of my lecture on dolphins in captivity compared to dolphins in the wild and look it over. It needs more polish. I seem to be working my ass off but nothing gets done. No progress on the book, no repairs on Moira, no nothing but talk, talk, talk...... The Sun catches my eye, an article by Sue Arnold on abuse of women by men. Just for the hell of it I dial Sue's number. She answers before the first ring is done, "Hello?"
I begin to breathe heavily into the phone. "Hello? Who is this?" I pant some more, "Wow, I love the way you breathe, baby," Sue purrs in a hot voice.
"I'm gonna teach you aerobic dancing the way you've always wanted to learn...naked. I'll get you so hot you'll sizzle when I drool on you. When I get through with you you're gonna need two friends to help you back into your iron lung."
"Ooooooh goody," squeals Sue. "I'm coming already." and we laugh for awhile.
"I saw your article on women in the paper today and couldn't resist seeing if you were really the delicate little flower or if you were secretly a hot lusty beast. Now I know. Actually I need some advice, got a minute?"
"Sure, what's up?' I can just see her get out her pencil and note pad.
"My lectures. I'm booked to speak at the Australian National Museum and at several schools and the Mosman Town Hall. I thought I'd go over it, in general, with someone brilliant and ask for advice."
"OK, now I'm not panting too hard I can take it," she quips. "The opening starts with quotes from famous people about dolphins and man including a few medical reports about death of captive dolphins by gastric ulcers and ends with a lovely quote from Jacques Cousteau about a dolphin he captured. It killed itself shortly after he captured it by cracking its skull on the edge of the cement holding tank.
"Then I tell the story of the white dolphin, Carolina Snowball. How the Miami Seaquarium captured it against the wishes of a small community in North Carolina - it was the first time a county in the U.S. passed legislation to protect a wild dolphin. The Miami Seaquarium hunted it for months until it strayed outside the county limits where they took it. I describe its foul holding conditions as I personally saw it, the white glimmer in the murky water of the small tank. After the white dolphin died, they stuffed her and put her body on display."
"God, that's gross." Sue groans.
"Yeah, it was gross. Next, I talk about how dolphinaria use repeat names on different dolphins and whales to fool the public into believing they live a long time in the tanks."
"Wait a minute, what's that?"
"Last week I went to see the people at the Australian Museum. I talked with Ron Straugn. His friend Dr. Carl Hubbs is a consultant on fishes to San Diego's Sea World and has a gold pass card to go there whenever he wants. Carl told Ron about a visit he made a couple of months ago. He was sitting with one of Sea World's top officials watching Shamu the Killer Whale go through his performance. But Shamu was not doing very well, missing cues, and generally ignoring the trainer. Carl said, 'Shamu seems a bit off today.' and the official said, 'It takes awhile to get them trained.' 'But you've had Shamu for years!' exclaimed Carl. 'Oh,' said the official, 'That's Shamu number 8.' Turns out they have lost quite a number of orcas there - again from stress related diseases - and because of the flack from conservationists, Sea World simply gives the next victim the same name. Other dolphinaria do it with dolphins, too."
"I see, go on," Sue murmurs.
"The next part of the lecture is about how smart dolphins are and the controversy over dolphin intelligence - again ripe with quotes and factual data. This moves into what is known about dolphins in the wild and examples of how dolphins have been trained to react with people in open ocean conditions - the U.S. Navy, Hawaiian experiments, Sea Lab's Tuffy.
"Then I talk about my own experiences with dolphins in the wild and end this section with the interspecies communication in body language at the African Lion Safari Park.
"I finish with a presentation about the dolphin sea-side park and what it could mean for the future of man and dolphin interactions."
"That's it?" Sue asks.
"In general, how about if I give you a copy over dinner so you can read it?" I ask.
"Uhhh..." she hesitates.
"Aboard Moira, Freddy is an excellent cook. Don't worry, I won't rip off your clothes until after you get aboard. Anyway, I'm sure you realize my flirtations are only 90% in earnest."
"I know that. OK, I'll be over at 6. By the way, my cover is blown so I don't think I'll be able to get any more inside info from Bulley's crowd."
"I had a long talk with Sandy Walker at Jonah and it turns out she and Genene are long term, very close and very personal friends. Everything I said went straight to Bulley and my editor got a very unfriendly call from him."
"Does that mean the Sun will drop out of the contest?" This would be a disaster.
"Just the opposite. My editor does not like to get threatening calls and has given me the go ahead on more coverage. I need to get more stuff from you to do some bigger articles. Some of these stories about previous open ocean dolphin work and so on."
"Wonderful, Sue, that's terrific. Come on over as soon as you get off work."
"This is the Carolyn Jones Show and today we have Dr. Richard Chesher back with us to talk about what progress has been made with the idea of a sea-side dolphin park. Dr. Chesher, I understand there is to be a meeting this morning at the Parks and Wildlife Service about the Dolphins."
"That's right, Carolyn. The Parks and Wildlife Service called a meeting with the owners of the three dolphinaria of New South Wales including Mr. Bulley, Hector Goodall and Sid Murphy as well as a representative from the Taronga Park Zoo."
"I'm curious to know why you were not invited to the meeting."
"I was not invited because, really, I'm not officially involved in any of the issues they want to discuss. In effect, the dolphinaria are sitting down to work out general rules for their own operation: regulations about working with dolphins. It should interest the public to know their agenda does not even consider an open-ocean sea-side park concept.
"Carolyn, I feel it's important to point out to your listeners, and to those people who are sitting down now over in the Parks and Wildlife Office, the RSPCA and Animal Liberation groups and a large segment of the public, do not agree it is profitable to discuss methods of catching dolphins or holding them in 12-meter swimming pools. Or even 20-meter swimming pools.
"Extensive experience has shown small tanks do not provide enough exercise or enough sensory stimulation for dolphins. This is why their average life span in captivity is less than one year. I don't think there are many people anywhere who, if they think about it, want to see dolphins captured and held until death in small swimming pools. The Minister of the Environment of New South Wales, Mr. Bedford, is one of those who object to this. He has announced, in Parliament, there will be no more capturing of dolphins from New South Wales waters for exhibition or circus displays. So why are the owners of the dolphinaria discussing the mechanics of holding dolphins in New South Wales?"
"Dr. Chesher, what about research? Don't the dolphinaria give scientists the opportunity to conduct research on dolphins?"
"Perhaps, in the early days of holding dolphins in tanks some 4 decades ago, there was some scientific excuse for dolphinaria. But most researchers who have worked with dolphins in captivity have long since decided tank research has limited rewards for understanding the biology of dolphins." I pause for a moment.
"Prominent Marine Mammal research workers today focus on wild populations of dolphins or dolphins trained to work with man in the open ocean. I know many dolphin research projects still go on in dolphinaria but it is my opinion most of these are beneficial only to the researchers who are trying to make a research buck and dolphinarium owners who are trying to make it look like their facilities are more than circus acts. Let me ask you, Carolyn, and any of your listeners who would care to call in, What sort of research projects do you think go on at the Lion Park Safari?"
"Actually," Carolyn laughs, "I can't think of any research that might be done there but I'm not an expert."
"You don't have to be an expert, Carolyn, this is not a scientific issue. As I said on your program two weeks ago, it is a moral issue, a public issue, and the public is going to have to stand up and be counted to get the government and the dolphinaria owners in the meeting today to move in a new and more considerate direction.
"Dolphins deserve to be in the sea. They have been humanity's friends for thousands of years. Everyone feels this friendship when we see them. It is the special feeling we all have towards dolphins dolphinaria owners use to capture the public's money. They know it is wrong to keep the dolphins in those conditions. They have to replace them on a regular basis. Their constant patter during the circus acts continuously highlights how wonderful and happy the dolphins are.
"Well, let me appeal to our listener's reason and ask if they truly believe dolphins should be captured and killed so today's children can see them do circus tricks while they die from the stress of isolation from the sea and their own intricate societies?"
The meeting room at the Parks and Wildlife Service is filled. Sue Arnold told me this morning the whole lot of them listened to the Carolyn Jones Show yesterday and a resolution was introduced to let me appear before the meeting to discuss the sea-side park.
I am wearing a light blue suit with a navy blue turtle-neck sweater and a black Greek sailor's cap. The room is somber and moody as I enter. I meet Finney and Smyth from the Taronga park Zoo (Hi), McKaskell from the RSPCA (good day), Bulley and Smarmington-Beaker (smile, how nice to see you again), Gregory and Walker from project Jonah (Hi), Dr. Hide, the vet from the University of Sydney (Smile & nod), a man from Greenpeace whose name I don't catch, Christine Townsend from Animal Liberation (Christine), Genene the beautiful dolphin trainer (Hello, Genene) and Jack Giles (Morning, Jack.).
"Why don't you present your views and then we can discuss them?" opens Giles.
I proceed to give my best account of the dolphin sea side park idea and what it would mean to Australia to be the first nation to fully embrace a new and forward looking method of working with marine mammals in an open sea environment. I watch the faces of the people as I talk. The presentation is backed by days of research in the library and with correspondence from other dolphin researchers and concerned biologists.
When I finish, after about 30 minutes, the room is deathly still. A sort of mumble begins and one or two people make half-hearted objections, trying to figure out something wrong with the idea. Finally Hide, Smyth and Finney get their objections lined up and declare with solid, steadfast faces the swimming pool at the African Lion Safari is "perfectly adequate." However, the idea of a sea-side park might have some merit. "Why not leave the African Lion Safari alone and go ahead with the concept of a sea-side dolphin park too?"
Bulley makes a few remarkably stupid comments. Up to now, I thought maybe he was holding back to see what he might get out of all this - playing foxy - but if so, he does one hell of a convincing stupid act.
The one surprise is Jack Giles. In private, he's been very encouraging and said he supported the idea of a dolphin sea side park. He even said he thought the Basin would be an excellent place to do it. But when Hide asks him outright if he thinks the Basin could be used for a dolphin sea side park, Giles side-steps the question in true political fashion, replying with something completely out of context.
Before the meeting ends I hand over a stack of petitions with about 1500 signatures asking for the release of the dolphins and the establishment of a sea-side dolphin park. The names of many of Sydney's biologists appear on the petitions. I promise to get more and get up and leave. The others stay seated at the table, probably mulling over what to do next.
The phone rings in the Bateau Chateau. Estelle. "We've organized a kidnap squad," she stage-whispers, "We're ready to move now and release them anywhere, just let them go. Horace Dobbs will be giving an interview with the press on Saturday morning and he will also advocate just letting them go."
She rambles on for awhile about her plan to kidnap the dolphins and I doodle on a piece of paper thinking I should tell her to quit calling me with her asshole schemes. I know perfectly well she's all hot air and couldn't organize a raid on McDonald's for a Big Mac and fries. The kidnap squad (for Christ's sakes) will never get anywhere near the dolphins. The security people would hear her talking a mile away. I gently put the receiver down on the desk and get back to work. Every once and awhile I listen and the little voice is still chittering away. I smile. It is an astonishingly long time before there is a pregnant silence on the desk.
I stand on the podium looking out over 750 young girls in their school uniforms. The smallest ones are seated in front, I guess they are about 8 or 9 years old, the older ones are in the back. Mrs. Medway introduces me to the girls and I start with a question. "How many of you have seen the television show, Flipper?"
Virtually every hand in the auditorium goes up.
"OK. How many of you think Flipper is really a wonderful, beautiful creature?"
Every hand goes back up, this time with vigor, most of them waving, little fingers spread and wiggling. The little faces are all smiling.
"I'd like you to imagine a television show. It starts with Flipper swimming along in the sea with his dolphin friends, playing happily in the waves, diving down to catch some fish to eat. Imagine you are Flipper and feel what it must be like to swim with such freedom and strength. Close your eyes and imagine you feel the water flowing by you, cool and pleasant. As a dolphin you can see just fine underwater, even with your eyes closed. And you can hear lots of sounds you could never hear as a little girl for dolphins have wonderful hearing and they sing to each other all the time. When they sing they actually see, in their minds, a vision of the sea around them. It is a very beautiful vision, made more delightful because everyone shares the same view. In your imagination, with your eyes closed, you can see this too.
"You see a silver sky above and a great land below filled with all sorts of graceful fishes and clumsy lobsters and swaying kelp. There are sea anemones, like big white flowers, and once and awhile there are even whales to see and play with.
"Flipper has brothers and sisters and a mother and father and lots of relatives. They all live together in a family. They swim mile after mile every day, moving along the coast and playing and singing together.
"One day, they hear an engine. A boat appears. Imagine you are Flipper. You hear the throb of the engine and realize humans are near. You like people and you and your family swim over to the boat to say hello and play in the bow wave of the boat as it plows through the silver surface of the sea. It's such fun you leap high into the air and look down on the people on the boat and see them standing on the deck watching you. Your whole family is singing and laughing back and forth as you plunge into the sea again.
"You come in close to the boat and feel it moving through the Sea. Suddenly, there is something around you, trapping you, holding you so you can't move. You fight to get free but it is everywhere, gripping onto you from all sides. You are pulled under the water and can't breathe. You cry out and your family circles around and sees you struggling but can't do anything to help. They swim around frantically calling to you. They are very afraid for the boat has stopped and the men are pulling on ropes to the net holding you.
"Your lungs are bursting and you need to breathe but can't swim because the net holds you." I see several of the little girls, their eyes tightly closed, struggling against the imaginary net.
"You feel yourself hauled out into the air and you breathe deeply. You are trapped. The net cuts into your soft skin and hurts, making you very afraid. The humans lift you high into the air and lower you onto the hard wooden deck of the boat. It is the first time you have ever been out of the Sea and the feeling of the deck on your chest is flat and hard and it crushes your tummy and chest so it is hard to breathe. Your fins are caught at a bad angle in the net and feel like they are breaking. You are afraid and cry out but no sound comes, for you are in the air and all you can hear is the strange growling yells from the humans as they gather close around you and pull the net from you, scraping your tender skin and hurting you.
"The men take you to the land and put you into a small pool of water. It is flat and square and there is not enough water to swim. You can breathe again, but you can't move or turn and there are awful, loud banging sounds everywhere.
"You stay there all day, unable to move, you keep feeling like you are going to sink and drown, you are terrified, crying out, but nobody hears you. Nobody comes to help you. The sky grows dark. The lights of man come on and fill your eyes with their harsh glare. The humans come and go and growl at you in their odd voices. Soon it is late at night and you are all alone.
"It is the first time in your life you have been all alone with no Sea creatures, no family, no friends. You cry in the tiny tank, you muscles hurting and cramped because you can not move. You cry and cry and cry and long to be back in the sea. You want to see your mommy and daddy and your sisters and brothers. But nobody hears you crying. You lie awake all night, struggling to stay afloat when you can't swim properly, trying to control your terror." I let my voice flow with emotion, controlling the fear and terror just beyond.
"In the morning, the humans come again and they lift you out of the tank and put you into a fabric stretcher and onto a big truck. The truck moves off with a loud roar and the humans take you farther and farther away from Sea until you can't hear the waves anymore. Until you can't taste Sea in the air. Far inland the truck moves, hour after hour. When it stops, they lift you off the truck and carry you into a place where there is a small pool of artificial sea water. It is a very small cement hole in the ground. The humans put you into it and you see three other dolphins who are already there.
"The other dolphins are sick and unhappy. They say you will never be able to leave here and see your family and friends again." My voice drops to a frightened whisper, "You will be in this one small pool until you die."
I raise my voice, "When they tell you this, you can taste Death in the water and are very frightened. The older dolphin says you will never ever be in Sea again. You will never again be able to catch fish or crabs to eat. The humans will give you dead fish and you must eat these or die.
"Oh no," you cry, "I can't eat dead fish. Every dolphin knows it is forbidden to eat dead fish for they must have been diseased to die. If I eat dead fish I will also get sick and die."
"And they answer, You must eat the dead fish. Everything is different here. You will be asked to do things for the humans. To walk on your tail and leap into the air and fetch things for them. You will be given dead fish if you obey. If you cause trouble you will be put over there... and they show you a tiny space, just a little bigger than you are, with an iron gate where the humans will lock you up if you don't behave. In there, you will not even be able to turn around. It is torture. You never get used to it. You will be locked up in there anyway three times a day when they do the shows. The three dolphins are not very friendly and one snaps, If you cause trouble for us look out because I'll bite you.
"You swim around the small tank with the other dolphins as you talk. And suddenly you realize you will be swimming around and around and around this tank for the rest of your life. Forever. Trapped. Lost from all you love until you die. And you cry and cry and cry while the other dolphins move to the other side of the pool and watch you."
By now all the little faces of the girls in the audience are filled with tears. "OK, now you are all girls again, here in the school auditorium, and you feel just fine. You are comfortable and nobody is going to trap you and take you away from your loved ones. You can open your eyes, now, and you'll feel very good, but maybe a little unhappy for the poor dolphins." All the little eyes are now dry and looking at me again. "Well, that would be a terrible TV show to watch, wouldn't it? You are lucky to be little girls and human so some bad person will not come and steal you from your family and friends and take you from your home and put you into a small prison to die. But the dolphins at the Lion Park Safari are not so lucky because what I just described to you is what has happened to them. They have been stolen from the sea and are being held captive, made to do circus tricks for their owners so people will pay money to see them perform.
"Dolphins are such beautiful creatures you might be fooled into thinking they are happy in that little swimming pool. Their mouth has a fixed smile but it does not mean they are happy. They can't frown and you can't hear them cry. But they tell us, by the way they swim, by the diseases they get, by dying out there in that small swimming pool, they are very, very unhappy.
"If you go out there to see the dolphins at the Lion Park Safari you will be giving money to the people who have kidnapped them from the sea. You will be helping the bad people catch and kill dolphins. If you go there to see the dolphins in the swimming pool you are saying it is OK to take dolphins from the sea and their friends and their families and lock them up until they die.
"So, my friends, if your parents say, 'Lets go out to see the dolphins at the Lion Park Safari' you say `NO. It's not nice to do that to dolphins!"'
"OK? Lets hear it. What do you say if someone says, 'Come see the dolphins at the Lion Park Safari?' Come on, what do you say?...."
"NO! IT'S NOT NICE TO DO THAT TO DOLPHINS!" The auditorium quakes to the roar of their pent-up emotion.
"I CAN'T HEAR YOU, WHAT DO YOU SAY IF SOMEONE ASKS YOU TO SEE DOLPHINS IN A DOLPHINARIUM?"
"NO! IT'S NOT NICE TO DO THAT TO DOLPHINS!" They scream.
I glance over at Mrs. Medway to signal that I have finished. She is clapping and screaming at the top of her lungs, "NO! IT'S NOT NICE TO DO THAT TO DOLPHINS."