Griffin believes that killer whales, like porpoises, are really fond of people. In this he is opposed by Eskimos and Indians, who think a killer whale will attack anything in the water, and by the weight of natural history and folklore. It has been generally held that killer whales are faster, more voracious and deadlier than sharks—"the most terrible flesh-eating creature on our planet," one authority wrote. They hunt in packs, circling their prey the way wolves run deer, sometimes in small packs of three or four, sometimes as many as 30 or 40. Except for man, the killer whale is the worst enemy of other whales. Attacking in short bursts of terrific speed, a killer whale fastens on the tongue or lip of a huge right whale or sperm whale, and these immense creatures, completely defenseless, are eaten alive by the rest of the pack. In the Arctic killer whales have been known to smash through ice floes to dislodge the seals resting there. Found in all oceans, they feed on whales, seals, salmon and occasionally on seabirds, and one authority says it is only by accident that man has not been added to the list.
Disregarding the possible danger, Homer Snow, Griffin's assistant and a professional seal trainer, went to Namu, spread his sleeping bag on the rocks, hand-fed the whale with fresh-caught salmon and began to talk with it in a 24-hour vigil. To attract its attention, he rang a small handbell. Then he began tootling cheerily on a whistle. The whale occasionally snorted and grunted. "He's very bubbly and friendly," Snow said. "I think he is beginning to realize that we are his friends. He even talks to me."
On Sunday, July 4, two weeks after its capture, the whale was still friendly. And still talking. The 30-foot tug Robert E. Lee, owned by a Seattle disc jockey who donated it for the purpose, was headed for Namu with workmen assigned to build a 40-by-60 foot floating steel-meshed pen in which the whale could be towed back to Seattle. The U.S. Coast Guard was flying steel tubing to the scene. Everybody concerned agreed that the 460-mile journey was likely to be difficult and certain to be an adventure. Only Edward Griffin had no misgivings about his purchase.
"You can communicate with killer whales," he said. "They have more brains than porpoises. Killers are the smartest things that swim. This whale will be very valuable for research projects. We'll tape his vocabulary."
Asked about getting the whale to Seattle, he said, "Why, Homer is talking to him now, explaining that everything is going to be O.K. There are five men on duty up there now, and they've all heard him talk."
The adventure of this loquacious mammal may end by revising natural history and giving killer whales a new reputation. It also may end with the killer whale rejoining its companions, since the pod has remained nearby. During the first two weeks of captivity, at least, the whale had plainly thrived and enjoyed an experience no other killer had ever had before. After all, no other killer whale had ever been captured uninjured by man—and then been supported at $100 a day, modified American plan.