Not deferential enough: There be whales

Posted Wednesday, September 21, 2011 in Opinion

Not deferential enough: There be whales

A fin of a humpback whale in Stellwagen Bank National Marine Reserve, off the coast of Cape Cod.

by Gina Hamilton

Despite the dismal cell phone service and the nearly non-existent wifi, and despite the rudeness and nastiness of the people at US Airways (but I have nearly worked that out of my blood), the Cape was as it should be this last golden week.

I take modest credit for that; I have this minor superpower, you see, which keeps the weather good any time I am planning any outdoor activity.  I don't know why I am blessed with such a superpower, and it is a modest one, but I am pleased to have it.  Now, before you invite me to your outdoor weddings and lobster bakes, I should warn you that it doesn't work like that.  It has to be something I myself have planned.  My brother calls it "It never rains on Gina's parade".

Something like that.  Which is why the Common Ground Fair will be soft and golden and lovely on Sunday, the day I am planning to go.

But enough of that.  One day we decided to go out to Provincetown and seek whales. 

I have done this before and probably will again, but we had a landlocked friend with us who had never been to the Cape, and so nothing would do but that she see whales. 

Humpback whales are magnificent beasties, and they are feeding on the Stellwagen Bank, off Cape Cod, during the autumn migration season.  I took lots of lovely photos, and they were so close to the boat it seemed that it was possible to reach out and touch them.  They were also being particularly acrobatic on this trip, and we watched breeching, fin slapping, and fluking for several hours. 

It's hard to believe that a mere hundred and fifty years ago, not far from this spot, men set out in small whaling ships to murder these magnificent animals to create instruments of torture for their womenfolk - stays - and perfume, oil, and other goods.  It is harder to believe that in some places in the world, small whaling vessels are still plying the waters of the oceans to take these beasts.

They are among the smartest animals on the planet.  They sing to their friends.  They know their way unerringly to the Arctic in the summer all the way to the southern tip of South America, and back. 

They deserve our wonder, even our love, and our protection. 

It should not matter that it is a political ally permitting whaling, in defiance of the entire world body.  We should be speaking up and denouncing whaling in the 21st century.  There is no need, and no excuse.

These animals are too precious to be lost to become an unnecessary and increasingly unwanted delicacy.  In February of this year, a hardline anti-whaling organization forced Japan to end its Antarctic whaling season early.  The nation is considering ending the annual whaling excursion because it does not see this organization ... or others ... giving up their increasingly aggressive tactics. 

We should be supporting the end to whaling everywhere, and encouraging Japan to end the practice.  But if they refuse, we should add our voices ... loud and strident ... to those who have already condemned Japan for whaling in the 21st century.

As we leave the playful giants behind and head back to port, I feel freer than I have in months.  This family, at least, is alive and well and wants us to know it. 

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