Paul Watson more gracious in remembering Payne than Payne was to him in last public act
Roger Payne, 88, died on June 10, 2023 at his home in Woodstock, Vermont.
Payne was memorialized “with great sadness” a day later by Paul Watson from the bridge of the Paul Watson Foundation ship John Paul DeJoria, en route to disrupt whaling between Iceland and Greenland by vessels belonging to Icelandic whaling baron Kristján Loftsson.
“Thinking about Roger”
“Yesterday, before I heard of his passing, we passed by and filmed a magnificent fin whale,” Watson posted to Facebook. “I had been thinking about Roger.
“I first met Roger in Bergen, Norway in 1977 at the Marine Mammal Conference where I was impressed with his passionate advocacy for the whales.
“It was Roger who first recorded the songs of the humpback whales,” with Scott McVay in 1967, who went on to become founding executive director of both the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation and the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation.
Flew into space with Voyager
“That recording is now far beyond our solar system aboard the Voyager spacecraft,” launched in 1977, Watson remembered.
“He was a friend, a mentor and an inspiration. A kind and gentle man, my former next door neighbor and a wonderful friend and teacher to my son Tiger.
“My deepest condolences to his wife Lisa Harrow and his family,” Watson finished.
Ironically, Watson, 72, was forced out of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, which he founded in 1977, after a hostile takeover by board members including Roger Payne, aligned with multi-millionaire real estate developer Pritam Singh, 72.
Part of Sea Shepherd takeover
Singh, a Sea Shepherd Conservation Society donor for more than 30 years and involved in the organization for about 20 years, brought marine mammalogists Roger Payne and Diana Reiss, 74, to the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society board.
Singh then announced that the organization would become the Marine Conservation Society, focused on research; scrapped the vegan food policy Watson had maintained aboard all Sea Shepherd vessels since inception in 1977; and scrapped much of the Sea Shepherd fleet, all as part of an attempted radical change in Sea Shepherd image and direction.
Hired in October 2021 as “the first director of science,” Science magazine online editor David Grimm mentioned, was John Payne, son of Roger Payne.
“If Paul [Watson] had asked, I would have said no,” John Payne told Grimm. “Their confrontational approach wasn’t a good match for my skill set.”
From Harvard to humpbacks
Roger Searle Payne, born in New York City, earned an undergraduate degree from Harvard University, followed by a Ph.D. from Cornell University.
Initially Roger Payne studied echolocation in bats and moths, and auditory localization in owls. He arrived in marine mammal research through marriage to Katharine Boynton, daughter of a Cornell faculty member and granddaughter of ornithologist and wildlife illustrator Louis Agassiz Fuertes. The marriage lasted 25 years.
Katharine Boynton, now Payne, did similar research involving humpback whales during their time together, later focusing on elephant vocalizations.
Roger Payne’s humpback whale recordings, released in 1970 as the long-play album Songs of the Humpback Whale, became the best-selling nature sound record ever. Payne followed up with a 1975 sequel, and in 1987 collaborated with musician Paul Winter to produce an album combined whale sounds with to human music.
Payne meanwhile founded the nonprofit Ocean Alliance, based in Gloucester, Massachusetts; was an assistant biology professor of biology at Rockefeller University; and doubled as a research zoologist at the Institute for Research in Animal Behavior, run by Rockefeller University and the Wildlife Conservation Society, which was then still the New York Zoological Society. Payne remained a Wildlife Conservation Society research zoologist and scientific director of the society’s Whale Fund until 1983.
Much of his work thereafter involved cataloging human-manufactured pollutants found in tissue samples from whales. In 2005 Payne reported having found such pollutants, including DDT and PCBs, in every one of the 1,100 whales whose tissues he had sampled.
Linda Adkins worked for s/n & against cockfighting
Linda Adkins, 74, who died from cancer on May 7, 2023, “rescued and made a home for various dogs and cats,” recalled longtime Oklahoma Alliance for Animals colleague Clova Abrahamson. “She recognized the importance of animal protection laws in every level of government and worked accordingly.
“When advocates for abolishing cockfighting in Oklahoma organized and moved forward, Linda was there,” Abrahamson wrote.
“When less than a handful of Tulsa advocates mounted a campaign to pass a spay/neuter ordinance, Linda was there.”
Originally from Bartlesville, Adkins lived most of her adult life in Tulsa, Abrahamson recalled.
“During her working years, Linda supported herself and her pets through her work as a social worker and a special education teacher. She also played the violin in the Tulsa Community College Orchestra,” Abrahamson finished.