|Words of support...|
IMA Inc./Member of the House of Councilors
Producer and Presenter for TV: Ushuaia Nature
President de la Fondation pour la Nature et l'Homme
Writer, TV producer
George B. Dyson
Series Producer, BBC Natural History Unit
Virginia McKenna and Will Travers
Born Free Foundation
Floating in the waters off Canada's Vancouver Island is Hanson Island--Dr. Paul Spong's island. How many years is it now since Paul came to live on this island surrounded by primeval forest to conduct his modest work researching the ecology of orcas? It was in the summer of 1992 that I visited the island, a time at which I was tackling rather difficult work-related problems. But coming in contact with Paul's way of life--solemnly conducting his research all year long on this island without telephone, electricity, or running water--my troubles seemed petty compared to the workings of Nature. Experiencing the tenderness of Paul's family was tremendously healing. Since then, Paul's daughter went off to school on the mainland, a lumber company attempted to cut down the primeval forest--a variety of events have come to pass. With whatever may have happened, Paul's pure enthusiasm has never waned. The island where Paul Spong lives is truly a remote corner of the world, but it is now linked to the entire world. Keep up the good work, Paul!
IMA Inc./Member of the House of Councilors
Thirty years ago, in August 1970, when I was seventeen years old, the boat I was working on dropped anchor in a small, tide-swept pocket of Hanson Island, where OrcaLab is today. I slept on deck, next to the anchor chain, so that if we dragged anchor the noise would wake me up. Instead I was awakened by whales -- circling us in the moonlight, the dark, liquid silence punctuated by the music of their vocalisations and the phosphorescent glow that trailed behind them as they passed by. Orca-live will open a window into this world I once caught a glimpse of, a world that still lives in my dreams today. It is a window that we cannot, as a species, afford to let close.
George B. Dyson
Author, Baidarka Darwin among the machines: the eveolution of global intelligence
Twice I have entered the magical world of Orcalab, the first time in 1975 when it was just beginning, the second time in 1996 when it was in full swing. Here is a page from my 1975 journal:
"Since Thursday was our last evening on the island, we went to visit with Paul [Spong] and his family. When it was almost dark the whales began to sing. Paul had put hydrophones in the water and connected them to speakers in his house. The singing began quietly and grew louder and louder as the whales came close to shore. Then the whole household exploded in a sudden frenzy. Paul grabbed his flute, rushed out onto a tree-trunk overhanging the water, and began playing weird melodies under the stars. Little Yasha [Paul's son] ran beside Paul and punctuated his melodies with high-pitched yelps. And louder and louder came the answering chorus of whale voices from the open door of the house. George [my son] took Emily [my daughter] out in a small canoe to see the whales from close at hand. They sat in the canoe a short distance from shore and George began to play his flute too. The whales came close to them, stopping about thirty feet away, as if they enjoyed the music but did not wish to upset the canoe. So the concert continued for about half an hour. Afterwards we counted the whales swimming back to the open sea, about fifteen in all."
When we came back in 1996, my journal resumes:
"The island is still as beautiful as ever, and Paul Spong is still listening and recording the whale-songs. There he lives with his family and ten students who come from all over the world to study the whales. They have a fifteen-year-old daughter Anna who has been on the island since she was a few days old. The son Yasha who was seven years old when we came in 1975 is now a film producer in Vancouver. We spent Thursday and Friday exploring the island and the many listening-stations where the whales are observed with hydrophones and underwater cameras. Now we can see and hear the whales, at any time of day, undisturbed by our presence, carrying on their normal social activities. Paul and his wife Helena know each one personally and understands their family relationships. The oldest is my twin, a seventy-three-year-old matriarch."
For the whales to remain undisturbed, the island must remain inaccessible, so that it will not be overrun by tourists. We enjoyed a rare privilege when we set foot on it. I am delighted that this web-site, Orca-live, will now allow people all over the world to share with us the magic and the beauty of Hanson Island and the world of Orca''.
Physicist. Winner of Tempreton Prize 2000.
Auther of "Infinite in All Directions" (1988),"Imagined Worlds" (1997) and "The Sun, the Genome and the Internet" (1999).
First and foremost, congratulations! I wish you all the best upon realizing the first step of your long time dream. It was over ten years ago that you first described me your vision of Nature Network.
Orcas as seen in aquariums are not the true image of orcas; encountering real orcas means quietly getting close to them living free in nature. No sooner did you resolve the difficulty you had with this issue--by settling on the seaside of British Columbia--did another major problem arise.
As the act of capturing orcas and keeping them captive in aquariums began to wane, people thronged the orcas' realm disturbing their lives. In a trial-and-error attempt to resolve this contradictory outgrowth of human curiosity, you conceived Nature Network.
When I joined you in presenting Nature Network ten years ago, there was some understanding of the concept, but not the power to realize it. It took ten years for technology to progress and peoples' spirits to evolve to make this "dream" come true. Now, at long last, the first step forward.
There will likely be more difficulties ahead. But this experiment is not just for the sake of the orcas, it is just as much for the workings of humankind, and on a greater scale, for all life on Mother Earth. I sincerely believe the workings of Nature Network will bear phenomenal results--you have my ongoing support.
Director of the film, "Gaia Symphony"
In a world mainly turning on technology, in which Nature is becoming more and more distant, it is essential that people maintain any possible links with her. The live songs and pictures of Orca groups in British Columbia will become a spiritual footbridge between urban society and Nature. Orcas should be considered as permanent ambassadors of wildlife. Their songs, independently of their scientific interpretation, should be listened to as a cry against our indifference and our ignorance. Experiencing their usual life without device, on the web, is a perfect way to remind everybody than humans are not alone on Earth, and that when we think about our own future we must think with all live species. We have a common past in our evolution, so we are joined in our futures. If the Orca-live site can help achieve this understanding, it would be great!
Producer and Presenter for the acclaimed French television series "Ushuaia Nature". President de la Fondation pour la Nature et l'Homme.
To enter the world of another animal is always demanding - but when that animal is one of the ocean's most intelligent mammals, it is even more of a challenge. At Orcalab, the team have devoted themselves to listening to the voices of whales, and truly entering their world of sound. To hear the whale calls from miles away as they echo through the Sound is one of the most spectacular forms of wildlife encounter. And to hear the noise of vessels through those same ears puts our impact on the planet into a simple but very elegant context. Offering the chance to hear the whale calls through the internet gives the world a chance to share the encounter. As well as this, Paul & Helena's work interpreting the underwater language of the whales, and defining family groups and individuals through sound, provides a greater understanding of the importance of communication to the whale families, and the sophistication of their invisible lives. Listening to these evocative sounds may generate images in your mind - but you get help with that as well, with underwater video direct from Johnstone Strait.
Series Producer, BBC Natural History Unit, Bristol, UK.
I have traveled to many parts of our fragile, blue, planet. Most places fade away, or are lost in the clutter of memory set upon memory. But the sights, sounds, and breathtaking beauty of my visit to Orcalab remain vivid and crystal clear. In 1988 and 1989 I was in Vancouver directing a feature film I had written - BEYOND THE STARS. One character was a man who studies whales. Producer Micky Hyman and I journeyed to Orcalab, leaving "civilization" and travelling into wilderness. Paul Spong took us to Hanson Island in his boat. We stopped and watched magnificent orcas along the way, their erect dorsal fins emerging through the surface of the calm, dark, water, and the whoosh of their breathing echoing in the crystal clear air. On Hanson Island we stood next to a 1000 year-old cedar tree. We saw the sky fill with bald eagles, and salmon on their way to spawn. We saw a sun and moon rise in the same sky. After midnight we listened to the songs of the Orcas via Paul's hydrophones. Still later, under more stars than I had ever seen, we watched giant cruise ships slip past, their passengers asleep and unaware of the magical and delicate world we felt so honored to briefly inhabit. I am delighted that Orca-live will bring the world of orcas closer to us all via the Internet, delivering the true promise of the WWW's fabulous technology and power. Bravo!
is a New York writer of many novels, plays and screenplays, and the producer of hundreds of television documentaries.
OrcaLab is our window into the secret world of the orca. Hidden from our view in the waters off British Columbia, Paul and Helena and their team have painstakingly built up an audio picture of what life it like for these amazing creatures. Now the Orca-live project will allow Orcalab and wildlife fans around the world to go a step further - without disturbing their subjects. To be able to 'tune in' and connect with nature in this way, to hear AND see what orca life is like, shows the unique potential of the Web to be a force for understanding, respect and inspiration. Born Free has supported Orcalab for many years and is proud to be associated with its original, ground-breaking and compassionate work which should be an example to us all. Orca-live - hear it, see it, enjoy it!
Virginia McKenna and Will Travers
Will Travers is the Chief Executive Officer of the Born Free Foundation, U.K. Virginia McKenna is an actress, writer, and campaigner for wild animals and their habitat. She and her husband, Bill Travers, played the lead roles in the film Born Free and founded the Born Free Foundation.
Showing people what they are going to destroy, letting them know in advance what they are going to miss, may help them avoid just that. Zoos always argue that people would only be interested in protecting animals if they "love" them, and they can only "fall in love" if they would see them. It is a very strange and selfish "love" indeed if you only experience these creatures as captives behind bars or in concrete pools. This kind of one-way-affection is the wrong attitude. It needs to evolve into respect. To other members of a captive animal's family, it makes no difference if their companion is captured or shot dead. And for the victim of this kind of show-biz there isn't much difference either. It is a very good idea to show people where every single Orca belongs to: his pod, his clan, his community ... that means: to the wild, to the ocean, to Nature. Nature is not a zoo or a show, where you can expect to see immediately what you came for or you tuned in to Ém and that is what will happen to the spectators of Orca-live. That will be great because it will tell: Nature isn't just there to please us on demand. Call it love or call it respect, both need distance and patience. Orca-live will promote just that - and this I like very much.
lives in Germany & has written many articles and books on whales, as well as working on films. He writes mainly for GEO-Magazine, the biggest nature and wildlife publication in Europe.
I am delighted to hear of the opening of Nature Network's "OrcaLive."
When you formulated the concept twenty years ago, I recall thinking it was but a pipe dream. Building an underwater photography studio, regularly notifying a network of members throughout the world of interchange with the orcas via cameras and microphones--the plan has progressed beyond any reality imaginable at the time. Still I remember pounding the pavements of Tokyo with you--driven by your enthusiasm--in the quest of corporate sponsorship like it was only yesterday.
As part of a movement to free captive orcas, we also attempted to make a film that unfortunate circumstances prevented us from realizing in the end. But it inspired another company to make an orca film, hence I feel we attained our objective to some extent. Informing the world of the orcas' plight led to their lives being disturbed, an anomaly that has created endless trouble. And yet, as unbearable as it is, there are still orcas held in captivity.
Time has passed, and standing on the threshold of the twenty-first century with the rapid development of information systems, your concept of Nature Network has become a reality. When I think of our friendship over the past thirty years I am filled with deep emotions. I have high hopes for your ongoing progress.
I am now considering reworks of two projects that relate to you: a sequel to the novel we wrote about orcas, and a biography about you and your passionate focus on orcas. My remaining days are few, as always, please grant me your kind cooperation.
Author. Planned/published the animal magazine "Anima" in 1973; wrote the original story/planned the film "Kita kitsune monogatari." Author of numerous books.
Paul Has/Needs Helena
Seven or eight years ago I spent several summer days on Hanson Island. The first time I heard the orcas' voices live, each and every cell in my body reacted like never before. With wonder, astonishment, a touch of fear, amusement, and utter joy. Buwahhaa... puhaaa... zuzuzuzuuu... schuuuu.... Something is lost expressed in writing.
In the summer of 2000 the orcas' voices will be heard worldwide--live. What an occurrence!!!! It is truly splendid! I must tell the many friends who heard my dull rendition upon my return from Hanson Island they can hear the orcas live.
One more thing... Paul has a wife named Helena--an amazing woman!
City dwellers may never be able to fathom the extent of her hardships, living on an enormous island alone with her husband and daughter. A lifestyle that requires they build and take care of everything--gas, water, electricity, toilet and bath facilities. Yet Paul's home abounds with the very delight and beauty Hanson Island offers.
Dinner prepared from homegrown vegetables, fresh-caught sea urchin and salmon, home-baked bread on a beautifully set table. Helena smiles nonchalantly; I gasp in admiration.
Water usage restricted to the absolute minimum. A single wood-burning stove, the heatĀ@adjusted by size and timing of the logs added. Steaming in a potset atop a pot she is stewing in, and grilling beside that. Clean-up too, is an original process.
Through the window of the fireplace-heated room is nature in its perfection. Between images of the orcas, I'd love to see the image of Helena and Paul sitting side by side after dinner, coffee cups in hand, joking and laughing.
The Significance of Nature Network
People once tended to think that the various aspects of technology and nature management could be left to professionals. Even today, national and local governments remain bound to that trend, however it is now evident that this is not the right approach.
The greatest problems confronting us all--how to manage our planet, and how to bequeath a sound natural environment to the future--are tasks that cannot be left to professionals alone. Everyone must take an interest, and use their own heads.
But in order to think and make judgements of our own, we first need to learn. In other words, we all have the obligation and the right to learn about the earth's environment.
The best way to set out to learn about and understand animal life and the structure of the natural world is to observe with ones own eyes and feel. Theoretically it is best to go to the place where the things you want to learn about exist, just like Johnstone Strait and the area around Hanson Island--where Dr. Paul Spong lives--is ideal for studying the lives of the orcas.
But there is something else we need to factor in--that when people set foot into nature there are negative effects. It is an anomaly that continually plagues those of us who go to the field to observe and photograph animals in the wild. What can we do to mitigate this dilemma?
That issue aside, as much as we may want to study nature in the field, financial, health and various other problems prevent many people from doing so. Systems and communities that offer these people an opportunity to observe nature as if in the field are extremely sensible.
Nature Network--a system that allows everyone to see scenes in nature as they exist, and to share information and experiences without posing negative effects on the environment--has tremendous significance for what is being asked of us for the future.