Last thursday afternoon was a cracker; blue sky, generous sunshine and a light breeze. I set off for my now regular walk down to the local beach. I found “my” private cove and watched the waves, such a meditative and tranquil thing to do. Out in the distance I saw a whale breaching for joy. It disappeared for a while then boom! The waves parted and the mighty levianthan shot out of the blue aiming for the sun only to dive heartily once more.I’ve read some of the scientific explanations for this behaviour but I prefer my own poetic one of joy. Joy in being alive, achieving the impossible,just because! And watching such antics brings joy to every onlooker. But although these awesome creatures are the most powerful in the marine environment, they are vulnerable too.
On sunday I checked the local news for weekend markets. The top story shocked me; a whale caught in a fishing net at Shelly beach, my local beach. No! I hoped it wasn’t the one I had seen a few days before. The staff of National Parks and Wildlife Service were doing their best to disentangle the now terrified and exhausted creature. But as with most stories of caught and stranded whales, it didn’t end well. Although the rescuers cut away the entangled nets and freed the whale, it’s exhaustion was terminal and it’s body washed upon the neighbouring beach of Nobby’s today, Monday.
The death of a whale affects so many people in coastal towns. Not just because of the tourist revenue from whale watching but because the population is entwined with many different forms of marine life.
Whale strandings and deaths are unfortunately not rare events and we are only starting to appreciate their exquisite sensitivity to many human interventions and intrusions into the marine environment. Still, there are many of us who in many different ways do what we can to protect and when necessary rescue the whales.