Mike Fortun

in Promising Genomics

Published by University of California Press

Published in print February 2008 | ISBN: 9780520247505
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520942615 | DOI:

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Keiko the killer whale, known to millions as Free Willy, was liberated from a sea theme park in Mexico to the freedom of...well, an aquarium in Oregon. But then he was liberated from the Oregon aquarium in 1998 to the freedom of... well, an elaborate sea pen with feeding platform and underwater cameras connected to the Internet. But at least Keiko was “home,” back in the Vestmannaeyjar—the Westman Islands off Iceland's southern coast. There were stories of his imminent heroic return “home,” just like the expat and deCODE Genetics CEO Kári Stefánsson had returned triumphantly, promising to make Iceland a great genomic power. Keiko and K.Co. seemed to be enmeshed in similar nets or to be components in equally crazy and elaborate machines rigged by a wild-eyed engineer just off stage, for vague ends that can only be speculated on. So a bit of Keiko analysis might also offer insights into the strange and multiple effects of celebrity, money, nationalism, and technology on genomics, in Iceland as well as in the United States.

Keywords: killer whale; Oregon; Iceland; genomics; deCODE Genetics; Kári Stefánsson; Westman Islands; nationalism

Chapter.  2473 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Evolutionary Biology

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