Arts and Entertainment

Earth and Ocean celebration on Whidbey: Adventurer to speak at Welcome the Whales Day

Inventor, artist and stiltwalker Larry Dobson hovers over Julianna Larson-Wickman, who enjoys being close to the earth at Bayview Corner during last year’s Earth Day celebrations. - David Welton photo
Inventor, artist and stiltwalker Larry Dobson hovers over Julianna Larson-Wickman, who enjoys being close to the earth at Bayview Corner during last year’s Earth Day celebrations.
— image credit: David Welton photo

There are neurotic attack dolphins in Brazil.

Who knew?

Captain Michael Bennett — that’s who, and he should know.

Bennett is the author of “Devil Dolphins of Silver Lagoon and Other Stories, Adventures of a Reluctant Photographer’s Assistant.”

“The impetus for writing some of these stories came a couple of years ago when a bunch of us old whale guys had gotten together and were sitting around reminiscing. It dawned on us that we had actually done most of the things we were talking about, and that others would like to hear these stories as well,” Bennett said.

A former boat pilot for National Geographic magazine and film expeditions, Bennett is the featured afternoon speaker during Whidbey Island’s Welcome the Whales Day festivities, which happen from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, April 23.

Bennett is currently a highly skilled ship’s captain and the brains behind Small Planet Adventures, an adventure luxury cruise and jet operation that takes guests to the places the mainstream tourist industry might fear to tread.

An ardent diver and someone who is comfortable cruising the most exotic places of the world, Bennett teamed with world-renowned photographer Flip Nicklin in Patagonia, Panama, Brazil, Hawaii, Sri Lanka, Canada and Costa Rica to document whales, dolphins and other exotic animals. The book is based on his experience of watching extreme photographers vying for the best shot in the wilds of the natural world.

But his respect for the animals captured so expertly on film goes beyond just piloting boats.

Bennett is past president of the Whale Watch Operators Association, and has helped develop the guidelines for responsible whale watching in use today. He was also one of the captains who drove Springer the orphaned orca from the U.S. back to her home in Canada.

“Devil Dolphins of Silver Lagoon and Other Stories” is a fun romp through his adventurous life. From the sailing whales of Patagonia to the neurotic attack dolphins of Brazil and a behind-the-scenes view of the making of many of Nicklin’s National Geographic Magazine stories of the past few decades, Bennett will be sharing all of it with Welcome the Whales Day participants.

Bennett will explain how the beautiful photos of whales and dolphins that appear in books, magazines and calenders are acquired. These engaging and often unexpected tales of what went into the making of some of the footage and photography of wildlife is what makes Bennett’s presentation interesting and fun.

Bennett’s book-signing and presentation, which will be in the Fellowship Hall of Langley United Methodist Church along with other presentations, is just one part of the many activities planned for Whidbey Island’s “Earth & Ocean Week.” Both Earth Day and Welcome the Whales Day feature a full schedule of fun and educational activities for the whole family.

The events begin with Bayview Corner’s fifth annual Earth Day celebration from noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday, April 16.

Admission is free, with activities taking place in the Cash Store and all around Bayview Corner. Earth Day is celebrated around the world on or around April 22 every year, with the goal of keeping communities up to date on environmental programs. It is also designed to rekindle public commitment and activism to the Earth through local educational events and activities.

This festival is made possible by the volunteer efforts and talents of dozens of members of the South Whidbey community including artists, educators, activists, farmers, healthcare professionals and musicians.

A detailed schedule of activities and times for Earth Day is available at

The Orca Network and the Langley Chamber of Commerce sponsor the eighth annual Welcome the Whales Day in Langley, which honors and celebrates the spring arrival of resident gray whales to Saratoga Passage on their way from Mexico to the Bering Sea.

The celebration is highlighted by a parade of species featuring a 20-foot gray whale named “Gary,” surrounded by other costume-bedazzled creatures both young and old. Participants can begin now to design a critter costume for the parade — or can arrive early before the parade to create a costume at 10 a.m. at the Langley United Methodist Church, at Third Street and Anthes Avenue.

The parade staging begins at 1 p.m. in the parking lot at Cascade Avenue and Sixth Street for a 1:30 p.m. start. A blessing by Windwalker Taibi completes the parade at Waterfront Park, with perhaps a view of the resident grays and a subsequent ringing of the whale bell.

For a complete list of activities at Welcome the Whales Day, visit or go to

Schedule of Events

Bayview Earth Day — Saturday, April 16

Noon Music and blessing

12:30 p.m. Patricia Powell, executive director of the Whidbey Camano Land Trust, will give the 2011 keynote address, “The Nature of our Island.”

1 p.m. — Join the crowd for a community peace photo and help form a human peace sign.

1:30 – 4 p.m. — “Reskilling: Old Skills for a New Future.” Reskilling is a term used to describe the lost skills of living that previous generations once used regularly. Learn about seed blocks, vermiculture, fiber crafts, seed saving, food preservation, foraging the land and more.

— Resource and networking tables with information from local organizations on a wide variety of topics related to green living and environmental sustainability.

— Music, children’s activities, display of alternative vehicles and more.

All activities take place in and around the grounds of Bayview Corner, the Bayview Cash Store and Bayview Community Hall.

Admission is free. The event takes place rain or shine. Call 321-4145 for info.

Visit for a detailed schedule of events.


Welcome the Whales Day — Saturday,

April 23


10 a.m. — Costume making begins at Langley United Methodist Church, where there will also be a whale-themed art show and sale.

1:30 p.m. — Parade begins at Cascade Avenue and Sixth Street to Waterfront Park for blessing by Windwalker Taibi.

3-5 p.m. — Orca Network gives update at the church on local gray whales with photos and stories. Also, Michael Bennett will present stories and photos from "Devil Dolphins of Silver Lagoon and Other Stories, Adventures of a Reluctant Photographer’s Assistant."

Visit or for more info.

Patricia Duff can be reached at 221-5300 or



We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus

Read the Oct 22
Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Browse the archives.

Friends to Follow

View All Updates