Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Play Opening Thursday Remembers Jon Lien, the 'Whale Man of Newfoundland'

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Play Opening Thursday Remembers Jon Lien, the 'Whale Man of Newfoundland'

Article excerpt

Play remembers 'whale man of Newfoundland'

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ST. JOHN'S, N.L. - The famous "whale man of Newfoundland" is being remembered in a new play opening in St. John's this week.

"Between Breaths" follows scientist Jon Lien's life, moving backwards from the period shortly before his death in 2010 to his first whale rescue in 1978.

Over the course of his career, Lien freed hundreds of whales from fishing nets along the coast of Newfoundland, and was respected by environmentalists and fishermen alike for his work. Award-winning playwright Robert Chafe said Lien's mutually trusting relationship with the fishing community stood out to him during his interviews with those who knew him. "He was a scientist and a conservationist, those people are usually the antagonists to people who work in industries like the fishery," Chafe said in an interview "But everyone I knew in the fishery who talked about Jon, when his name would come up, just spoke about him with such respect and reverence. And I thought, that's just so beautiful that he did the work that he did, but also fostered this great respect from these people." In the late 1970s, more whales were getting trapped in Newfoundland fishermen's nets, as the animals swam closer to the shore looking for food. Lien quickly caught the attention of inshore fishermen for the care he took to preserve the nets as well as free the whales. He would spend hours on the water during his rescues, studying the nets to make sure they weren't destroyed in the process. Lien was awarded the Order of Canada in 2008 for his commitment to preserving the marine environment, before he died from heart complications in 2010. Chafe began research on the script by interviewing Lien's family, friends and colleagues, starting in 2012. He said he's been appreciative of the support from Lien's family during the difficult process of remembering stories about him so shortly after his death. …

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