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  • Angela Costigan

Books I Adore - 'Into The Blue' by Virginia McKenna

The idea to write a little blog series on 'Books I Adore', came to me one evening when I suddenly had the urge to find a book that changed my life as a child.

I had never forgotten the title - 'Into the Blue' - but I had no idea who the author was.

Google of course knew. Virginia McKenna OBE. An actress famous for her role in Born Free (1966) and a staunch animal activist, who along with her late husband (Bill Travers MBE), founded the 'Born Free Foundation' in 1984.

She also wrote a book that had a profound affect on my life.

I was 12 years old when I found 'Into the Blue' (The Aquarian Press, 1992) in my local library. Until that point, I felt I was the only one who believed placing dolphins in captivity was wrong.

This was the early1990s remember. If you didn't go to SeaWorld for your summer holidays or visit a circus with performing elephants, then what the hell were you doing?

I would ask people, 'Have you considered where the dolphins come from?', 'What about their families?', 'What do they do when they are not 'performing?', 'How would you like to be ripped from your family and placed in an empty room for the rest of your life?'

The well rehearsed doctrine of the devoted would follow, usually accompanied by shuffling feet and a puffed out chest - 'Australia's SeaWorld only keep wild dolphins that have been stranded and can't live in the wild...or they breed them in house.'

Oh my mistake. Please, carry on. Buy your tickets and your popcorn and be sure to jump on that latest roller coaster, I hear it's full of information about animal conservation.

It's safe to say that my opinions made people uncomfortable (they still do). Or they just thought I was a weird kid (which I was).

Finding that book gave my preadolescent self some validation. There it was in black and white (and glossy pictures) - the cruelty behind the charade.

I distinctly remember standing stock still, thumbing through the pages, looking at all the photos of the beautiful wild dolphins and all the heartbreaking ones of those that had been captured.

I remember borrowing that book at least five times. I knew it cover to cover. I also never forgot the cover. So when I started googling the title, I knew I had to buy a copy that had the original cover from my childhood. Enter Ebay.

I also knew that I had to try and make contact with the author. To let her know that after more than 25 years, I still remembered this book and I still held the same beliefs. More so than ever.

I googled some more. I sent an email....and I got one back...


Dear Angela

Sarah has shown me your extremely nice email and I am most touched that you found ‘Into the Blue’ so interesting. It was indeed a very fascinating subject to write about, and I learned a lot along the way! It is heartening to know you feel the same as we do about captive dolphins. I think more and more people are starting to feel the same.

I wish you a very happy Christmas and New Year, and let us hope for a peaceful 2018.

Kind regards.



How amazing is that? I almost have no words. Almost.

What an honour and a privilege to be able to make contact with that mighty woman. Thank you Virginia, sincerely.

You know, still to this day, I have never seen a dolphin. They have been my favourite animal for as long as I can remember, and yet, I have never seen one.

I love them. I let them be.

Although I do dream about them. I have had the same reoccurring dream my whole life. I am walking along the beach, and a pod of say, four dolphins are swimming along beside me. That's it. And it's cool.

I could go on about my beliefs regarding cetaceans in captivity, but that is not the purpose of this post. I'll save that monologue for the next time someone joyfully tells me they're heading to SeaWorld.

The purpose of this post was to pay homage to a heartbreakingly beautiful book that taught a 12 year old girl how to stand firm in her beliefs and always fight for freedom, no matter how uncomfortable you might make people or how weird they correctly think you are.

For more information on Virginia McKenna's 'Born Free Foundation', please visit

Photo Credits (Images as seen in 'Into the Blue, Virginia McKenna)

TOP - 'International Fund for Animal Welfare

SIDE BY SIDE - M.Webber (left) & Karen Bradbury (right)

BOTTOM - Earthviews: James D Watt

QUOTE (as featured in 'Into the Blue', page 122) - Richard O'Barry


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