Marty’s photo of the day #1500. It’s Book Excerpts Week, featuring an excerpt from my first book, “Cool Creatures, Hot Planet: Exploring the Seven Continents,” and a corresponding photo (that may or may not be from the book):
The thrill of seeing humpback whales up close leaves each person with a specific unforgettable memory. For some, it’s the whales’ huge size, incredible beauty, playful disposition, or earthy smell. For me, it’s the sound they made releasing air from their blowholes when they surfaced. Psssshhhhhhhhhhhhhp!—it was much louder than I expected, like sea monsters.
Because humpbacks are inquisitive animals with little fear of boats, whalers were able to slaughter them by the tens of thousands before they became a protected species. While I can’t imagine an ethically justifiable reason for killing a whale—especially in modern times—I have no problem imagining what a hunt is like:
A whaling ship motors through the morning mist. A mother humpback hears the noise and swims over to investigate. “Hi, I’m a humpback whale, and this is my baby. Do you wanna be friends?”
The soulless whaler can’t see the beauty or sense the intelligence—all he sees is a commodity. He pulls the trigger.
Ka-boom! An exploding harpoon pierces the mother humpback’s flesh, shocking every nerve in her body. Her blood pours into the ocean, as she slowly dies in agony.
The whaler smiles.
The baby humpback frantically nuzzles his mother. “Wake up!”
As blood covers the baby’s eyes, his world turns red. Confused and frightened he floats by his mother’s side, softly whistling a song of sorrow.
Ka-boom! His world goes black.
The whaler smiles.
Fact: One of the hunting methods used by whalers is to wound a calf and wait for its cries to lure in the mother and other nearby whales. Once the group is in range, they kill them all. Though this method of hunting is now illegal, not every whaler follows every law.
Since 1986, the International Whaling Commission has maintained a worldwide ban on commercial whale hunting. The ban isn’t permanent, however. In fact, a proposal from Japan to reinstate whaling was defeated as recently as the June 2005 IWC annual meeting (the vote was twenty-three in favor to twenty-nine opposed).
Even with the ban, whalers from Norway, Japan, Iceland, and various native villages slay almost fifteen hundred whales per year. Norway justifies its actions by refusing to acknowledge the validity of the regulations; Japan and Iceland claim their hunts are for “scientific purposes”; and native people are allowed hunts for “cultural and subsistence purposes.” Whatever their excuse, I don’t have a problem with it, as long as each whaler agrees to tie the anchor end of the harpoon rope around his testicles before firing.