Friday, October 2, 2009

People-watching whales?

A fittingly huge piece of news about whales to mention. In the New York Times magazine for July 12, 2009, Charles Siebert wrote the cover story about gray whales off the Baja peninsula and the real likelihood that they have initiated interspecies communication with humans. Imagine.

After first discussing the problem of the US Navy’s use of sonar and its catastrophic effects on whales (and ocean ecosystems), and the startling fact that the US Supreme Court had even considered the issue in late 2008, Siebert moves on to a lengthy description of recent human experiences with gray whales off Baja.

Siebert says, despite “. . . all of our transgressions against them, they may . . . have learned to trust us again,” not long after “our gradual transition from murdering whales to marveling at them.” He tells of gray-whale mothers (some still bearing harpoon scars!) seeking out humans and seeming to introduce them to their young. Both eye contact and “sociable tactile contact” has occurred between two vastly different species of mammals.

“Watching Whales Watching Us” is so astounding and touching at once that it deserves to be read word-for-word. And the illustrations are striking.

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