Espolarte - Feliciano Espolarte, the orca - Story of Oliver the Seal

In 2002, Fernolys and me wanted to travel to Iceland and Greenland. Our Faroese pen friend, Martin Morvendsen also desired to join us. Morvendsen is a pilot whale who intends to become a professional orca. Having read that the famous film star, Keiko, takes part in an orca training course near Vestmannaeyjar Islands, Iceland, he decided to enroll in the same course.

We wrote Keiko a letter. We received a disillusioning answer from him. The course is that bad that he wants to abandon it. He did not get any opportunity of practical training in hunting of marine mammals, an essential skill for an orca.

As both Fernolys and me are passionate seal hunters, we decided to teach Morvendsen and Keiko the basics of this amazing pastime.

The first step in sealing is finding seals. Although most people don't know this, seals are extremely intelligent animals. For example, some of them are excellent dentists. I have never had any problem with my teeth, but I have my teeth regularly checked by a seal dentist. This seal has recently performed root end surgery on a killer whale, without anesthesy (a self-respecting orca would never accept any numbing), and both the patient and the doctor survived it. Unskilful dentists have a very high mortality rate.

All but a few seals have an access to the World Wide Web; many of them hang on the Internet several hours every day, sending a lot of e-mails to their fellow seals. Therefore I posted an ad on a popular travel forum: "We are seeking a phocine travel companion for our journey to Iceland." We received an answer on the same day: Oliver, a seal from Isafjörður in northern Iceland, who is a typographer, being bored of fjords, puffins and arctic terns, decided to join us.

We arrived at Vestmannaeyjar early in July; Keiko was waiting for us. I have never met him before, but I did see his Free Willy movies. He has put on significant weight since the movies, or even grew in length; by all means, he was the largest of us. Unfortunately, his collapsed dorsal fin never recovered. We quickly made friends.

On arriving at Isafjörður, we couldn't find any seal. We asked passing puffins about Oliver, but didn't receive any useful answer. Later, in the neighbouring fjords, we did see some seals, but all of them were on the inaccessible shore, well beyond the tideline, laughing at us. Even the fishies hided themselves. We couldn't get any food in the western fjords.

Finally, hungry and irritated, we continued our journey towards Greenland, where we did find seals and had a good time with them.

We allowed Keiko to be the first to catch a seal. He caught a cute baby seal, kept it gently with his formidable jaws, and told us that he was unable to harm such an innocent creature. He would rather return to the oceanarium in Newport, Oregon. Then the innocent cute little creature bit Keiko's lower lip, causing a slight bleeding. Keiko quickly forgot his gentle heart and cracked the backbone of the little seal. During the rest of the day, Keiko caught, killed and ate five baby seals, showing natural killing skills comparable to mine; unfortunately, excessive eating caused him a stomach upset.

Martin said that any sentimentalism would be unworthy for him, and he would not feel sorry for any seal. He followed a bunch of seals; of course, the seals weren't afraid of him. He was swimming together with them for a while, then bit the hindquarters of the mightiest seal. Poor seal, it must have been an unpleasant surprise for him. Martin bit again and again; after the tenth bite, the seal had enough of the harassment and died. Martin could only partially eat him.

Of course, also Fernoly and me ate our fill of seal meat. We even found a hooded seal and popped his hood.

After this extremely successful hunt, we returned to Iceland. We didn't even think of Oliver. Unexpectedly, a puffin appeared. Which of you is El Espolarte? she asked. Oliver, the Seal invites El Espolarte for dinner. We fulfilled the kind invitation. Oliver is a quite large gray seal, fat enough to provide a good meal for all of us, given that Keiko still had a stomach-ache, and Martin stated that fresh squid is much more tasty than anything else. But Oliver offered us better meals than his humble body. His pantry was full of excellent food, such as Globus canned meat, hákarl (rotten shark meat, an Icelandic speciality), and two huge tanks of live freshwater fish. A hearty, filling dinner.

After dinner, we had a long conversation with Oliver. He has originally been a typographer, expert of offset technics. I asked for a quotation for the printing of the new edition of the ESPOLARTE road map of Hungary; but, sadly enough, the printing office had become bankrupt, Oliver had lost his job and started producing grape in his own greenhouse. He earns a good money, as nobody else in Iceland cultivates grape. By the way, Oliver lives in a comfortable seahouse, that vaguely resembles fish farms seen everywhere in Northern Europe.

Oliver asked us to use the vacuum toilet, as orcine dung is a much more useful fertilizer than ovine or seal dung is. We fulfilled his request, only Keiko did not do so.

We also spent the following day with Oliver. He suggested us to watch his video records of the coasts of Iceland; this would have been a full-day programme. Martin and me were interested in this video; however, Fernolys has found a copy of the classic Spanish movie Hasta que llegó su horca, and Keiko found Monty Python and the Holy Grail, so we watched these movies. My favourite sketch is that of the killer rabbit. For lunch, we devoured four well-fed sheep, whom Oliver had bought from a farmer who lives in Brú. Human inhabitants of Iceland also eat these friendly animals, but, if my information is correct, they do not eat the wool. After the meal, Oliver offered us his own-produced red wine. In the evening, our seal friend showed us a selection of his best slides; later we were singing together.

Oliver might have drunk a bit more than the optimal, because he started to speak about that he was actually the Lord of the Universe, that his task was to defend Earth from falling into the Sun and mountains from sinking into the sea. Seals seem to be predisposed of megalomany. According to Fernolys' opinion, the adequate therapy of this psychological problem should be a lethal bite, but I stopped him, as I had already come to like this amazing seal.

Oliver asked us to stay longer and to try some of the recipes he acquired during his visit to the Faroe Islands, but Martin was strongly against this idea. So we decided to leave Iceland.

I have invited Keiko and Martin for a visit to Patagonia. However, Keiko was more interested in Norway, so we said farewell to him; I have never seen him again. Seventeen months later, we received devastating news: Keiko has died of pneumonia, near the Norwegian coasts. Martin was coming with us for a while, but later decided to settle downs at Canary Islands. Oliver and me are still corresponding.

I am glad to have such an extraordinarily brave and patriotic seal friend; he is certainly one of the most amazing and unusual inhabitants of the Arctic.