People / Paul Spong

Scientist, activist. Born in Whakatane, New Zealand in 1939, Paul Spong studied law at the University of Canterbury (Christchurch), and psychology at the Brain Research Institute at the University of California (Los Angeles). Spong moved to Vancouver in 1967 to take a position working with orca whales (Orcinus orca) at the Vancouver Aquarium. Through the course of his research, Spong came to believe that humans could potentially communicate with whales and that whales should not be kept in captivity, arguing that they can be effectively studied in their natural habitat. He expressed these conclusions in a 1968 lecture delivered at the University of British Columbia, and a mild media storm ensued. Spong’s research project was suspended and he was eventually forced out of his position at the Vancouver Aquarium. In 1970, Spong founded the small, land-based whale research station OrcaLab on Hanson Island. A network of hydrophones and video cameras monitor the whales’ movements without direct interference. As an activist, Spong’s involvement with Greenpeace increased public awareness about whaling.

  1. 05. Paul Spong Performance
    Michael de Courcy and Paul Spong (Photograph)
  2. 06. Paul Spong Performance
    Michael de Courcy and Paul Spong (Photograph)
  3. 07. Paul Spong Performance
    Michael de Courcy and Paul Spong (Photograph)
  4. 08. Paul Spong Performance
    Michael de Courcy and Paul Spong (Photograph)