Monday, November 04, 2019

The Whale Story

You can hardly see it, but the whale and the scientists are in the upper right
I wanted to share this story before it's long forgotten and covered in the dust and ash of time, fires and power outages. A few days before the power was cut here a Humpback Whale beached itself about eight miles from our house. It was still alive, but was tangled in fish netting all over. A group of Marine Mammal science professors from the local university and a group of people from California Fish and Game went to the beach to inspect the whale and see what could be done. They spent hours and hours cutting the netting from the whale until it was finally freed. It would be several hours before the high tide came back in, so people came to the beach to watch and hope and pray for this whale to make it back into the ocean.

We didn't go to the beach. As much as we wanted to go, we didn't want to interfere in any way with the hard work in helping this whale get free. We also didn't want to see it struggling. We followed the story closely on two local websites. We all knew what time the high tide would get to it. We were hopeful, but also worried that it might not be enough to lift it buoyantly back in.

As it turned out, the tide did not lift it.

There was still some hope for the next day that it might work out. The scientists explained that a whale's body is not meant to be stranded on a beach. Its own weight actually crushes its internal organs. They need the ocean to survive.

By the time the second day came, hope had pretty much diminished. There were a lot of opinions. A lot of bickering. A lot of second guessing. A lot of anguish everywhere. But it was determined by the several rescuers, scientists, and others that this beautiful humpback whale was not going to survive. It was struggling. So, it was euthanized that evening.

We went to the beach the next day. I brought a flower from our garden. An offering from our hearts. An apology for the tragedy that fish netting and humans caused this whale. We brought our tears. By the time we got to the beach though the marine scientists and students were performing an autopsy. I will spare you the photos. But we watched and grieved.

It's the closest we've ever come to a whale. I asked the main person in charge if I could please touch it, and she said "No." We looked in each other's eyes, this marine science professor and me. We had tears. We touched each other's shoulders in sorrow. It was the closest I've ever been to a whale, only one degree of separation, between that humpback and me.

PS--
If you go to this link, you will see truly beautiful photos of this humpback whale.
Please let me know if you want to see the photos of the autopsy. 

44 comments:

  1. Ahhhh, Robin....heartbreaking. Simply, achingly heartbreaking.

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  2. And tears here on the other side of the continent, having read this story of a beautiful being killed by humans. Long after our ugly species is gone, beings will continue to be killed by our long-ago actions.
    Thank you for acknowledging the whale's life and mourning his/her death. We should be flying flags at half mast in its memory.

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    1. CCorax-- It's true, our footprint is long and deep and everywhere. I hope the planet survives and thrives when we are long gone. I wrote this blog post in memory one beautiful whale. I did not want her to be forgotten.

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  3. How awful, and beautiful also in a way. Sad for you and the beautiful being which brought this to you, and then to us.

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    1. Barbara-- I so wanted her to survive and thrive, but she simply could not.

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  4. How sad. Whales are really struggling these days. We had a humpback whale come into the Thames this summer, and everyone was so excited. People came from miles to see it. And then it was hit by a ship and killed.

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    1. Steve-- I am so surprised about that whale in the Thames. How tragic that a ship killed it. I wish we humans could live more in harmony with our one and only beautiful earth.

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  5. That's a tragedy all around. The whale is lost but humans have lost so much. Our improper use of fish nets has got to stop.

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    1. Red-- Yes, it truly is tragedy all around. I wish humans could figure out how to be more careful.

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  6. I'm so sad for this whale, and for all you good local people who had to let it go in ways that were different than what you hoped.

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    1. Colette-- Yes, we really did have to let it go in ways that we did not hope. Roger and I were both truly glad we went to see it, and also very heartbroken by what we saw.

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    1. Catalyst-- It is a truly sad story, and it needed to be told.

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  8. I was so hoping for a different outcome to the story. I am surprised they didn't try to somehow drag her back into the ocean. It hurts me here so many miles away, I can't imagine how it is affecting you and roger. We so need to do better.

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    1. Patti-- There was a lot of talk about getting her back into the ocean. The argument against it was that pulling an already injured 13 ton whale would not be good. Someone recounted a story where a whale was pulled back into the ocean somewhere in Santa Barbara. The scientists agreed that there is no way of knowing what became of that whale, if it survived such a thing. Yes, we so need to do better.

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  9. It is moving to know that so many are gathered from near and far to honor with tears the life of this beautiful kindred being.

    I'm reminded of all that went into the rescue, healing and release of Orielly and grateful for the extraordinary people who devote their lives to the heart-opening and heartbreaking work of marine animal rescue.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5tRMqbPH_pk

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    1. am-- I felt the same, how moving it was to see so many gather in support of this stranded whale. I love how this reminded you of Oreilly. Yes! There are so many good people out there doing the good work.

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    2. am-- I am listening to the youtube you posted. It brings tears to my eyes, to think that's how this beautiful whale sang out in the ocean. Thank you so much for this.

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  10. All praise to the people who worked so hard and long to get a good rescue outcome. However in this case it was not to be.
    Another example of how all the accrued rubbish in our oceans affects sea life.
    Will the results of the autopsy be made public?
    Alphie

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    1. Alphie Soup-- Yes, our human footprint is everywhere on our suffering planet. I have been wondering about the autopsy results as well. I may email the prof about that. Thank you for stopping by and commenting.

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  11. So very sad. Those scientists had a hard decision on their hands. My daughter was part of team in New Zealand that cleaned seabirds after an oil spill. She lost a lot of sleep over the tragedies she had at her hands.
    I've just watched the first episode of "Seven continents, one planet" by David Attenborough. I had to hide my face behind a pillow at times.

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    1. Sabine-- It is such hard work to clean up after the mess we humans make of our world. I so appreciate your daughter doing the hard work of it. I don't know if I could watch David Attenborough's documentary. Too sad, too heartbreaking.

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  12. That is heartbreaking shame they could not dig the sand out in front of it to give a chance. We have a lot to answer for RIP

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    1. Billy Blue Eyes-- There were a lot of ideas offered to the rescuers out there. They concluded that none would have worked out for the whale. It was a heartbreak. Yes, we have a lot to answer for.

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  13. Such a needless tragedy. But one we need to hear. and heed. When will they ever learn?

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    1. NCmountainwoman-- Yes, when will they ever learn? Sigh.

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  14. I think you did all you could. You stood back and let the professionals try to save the whale. When they failed, you mourned the whale. Although you didn't know the whale, it was an individual with its own life. I think recognizing, acknowledging, and honoring that is what we owe the departed.

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    1. Mark-- You sum it up so well: recognizing, acknowledging, and honoring. Thank you for that. It was a heartbreak of a time.

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  15. So sad about the whale. They are paying the price for a lot of human activities. As you probably know, we're seeing a lot of whale deaths here on the east coast. Some are from collisions with ships, but a lot are due to entanglement with fishing gear. There have been over a half dozen endangered Right Whales this year, I think -- they're moving further north to feed and it's putting them into busy shipping lanes in the Gulf of the St. Lawrence. Anyhow, it's all just a sad mess. :(

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    1. bev-- It is so very sad what we humans have done. Another humpback washed up on the beach just north of us about 20 miles. No rescue, it was already dead. I wish we humans paid more attention. Here is the short story of the latest: https://lostcoastoutpost.com/2019/nov/6/video-another-dead-whale-washes-humboldt-time-agat/?fbclid=IwAR1gsEwJp4NSQk87MK67L0AX9ca1lqLw-F0uizchQeZU7ehLL0kKUbc7Nos

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    2. Whoops, it's a Gray Whale and not a Humpback.

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  16. A very sad tale. No wonder you didn't want to go down to watch it struggle. A great tragedy that such a magnificent beast could be taken down by netting set by man. We just don't understand how our actions affect the environment and the creatures that live in it. They are collateral damage to humans presence on earth.

    I hope, at the very least, the scientist were able to learn something from the autopsy.

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    1. Tara-- My dentist told me the other day that people are working on crab pot netting that will not trap whales, but will enable them to break free. Isn't the the best news? I wish we humans would just learn how to share the planet.

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  17. How sad. Over 90% of the birds that come into our clinic at Bird TLC have been effected by humans in some way or form. It might be flying into a power line, hit by a car or an intentional injury. We put things in the environment that they're not use to or know how to avoid. That's the reasoning behind my volunteering there. Maybe I can give something back to make a difference.

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    1. Dave-- The work you do is so important and truly lifts my heart (and all those beating hearts at the clinic). I love that you make the effort to give something back. Thank you thank you. Always so good to hear from you.

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  18. A sad story. The way fishing nets get lost at sea is a real issue. I'm a vegetarian. I've come across people who want to go "half way" and eat fish but not meat. I think if more people could see the damage and pollution caused by fishing nets, more people would give up fish first.

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    1. Sackerson-- It is a sad story and repeated all the time. A Gray Whale washed up 20 miles north of us just the other day. We humans so need to reduce our footprint and learn how to share the planet in all ways.

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  19. A moving story of a terrible tragedy - unfortunately all too common, as human trash harms and kills wild creatures.

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    1. David-- I confess that I sometimes think if humans could simply disappear in a single painless moment from the face of our earth, it would be the best thing ever happened.

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