To the Apologist, Defender, and Stooge of the Whaling Industry
Whale and Paddle Surfer, Sea of Cortez, Baja, Sur
Editor’s Note: One of the world’s most biologically rich subtropical seas, the Gulf of California or Sea of Cortez is a critical feeding, breeding, and nursery ground for some of the world’s rarest marine animals, including 32 species of marine mammals, 170 species of sea birds, 3,000 species of invertebrates, and 875 species of fish. The 900 or more islands and islets in the gulf serve as important nesting sites for migratory and residential birds and breeding grounds for sea lions. The coral and rocky reefs that dot its shallow waters are home to a wide variety of endemic species, including corals that do not exist in any other sea. In a recent study, the Gulf of California ranked 6th in the world’s top ten marine biodiversity hot spots for tropical reefs. The reef at Cabo Pulmo is now under threat from development: The Threat to Baja’s Underwater Rainforest.
Because of the gulf’s high productivity, the world’s two largest whales, the blue whale and the fin whale, are regularly seen in these waters. They are both long thin whales (our images years ago were distorted since photos only existed for bloated dead whales). An average blue whale is between 75 and 80 feet (23 to 24.5 m) long (up to 90 feet), and weighs about 110 tons (99,800 kg). Ten feet shorter, the fin has half the bio-mass. As more studies are done on blue whales in the gulf, it’s becoming clear that there is a core group of female blue whales that return year after year to use the Sea of Cortez as a nursery. Of the 85 species of Cetacea (ten great whales, 55 species of dolphins and porpoises, and the so-called lesser whales most of whom have bigger brains than we in a weightless environment), at one time there were 37 species found in the Sea of Cortez.*
Suppose for a moment
that people began to disappear,
one at a time,
off the street, from their yards, from the supermarket
Suppose they were hooked, one by one,
by a species working from another dimension
or an earth orbit if you like.
Suppose that people began to miss
their colleagues, acquaintances, and relatives
but not very much.
In a way they were glad to be done with them.
At least those left were still swimming along.
The chosen few were spared, they felt, quite judiciously
by the gods.
Besides there had been a problem of “uncontrollable
Also, the people disappeared so neatly. Never a trace.
That had happened in Germany some years before
but everything worked out all right there
in the end,
Now this orbiting species
was packaging for eating
the men, women, and occasional children
who were hooked
for they tasted something like
a preferred dish from home.
Some nut among the visiting species
if the everywhere species of featherless biped
might not possess low grade intelligence.
This passing voiced wondering went unheard amid
the throng, the scurry, the bustle, the hurry
to expedite, organize and wind up
the hunt for homo sap.
Still one visiting orbiter
looked at a dead specimen of the creature
reported to have paved a good section of earth and
routed many forms of life
and tried to imagine
what spiritual qualities, what noble cast of mind,
what brimming generosity, what vaulted aspirations
might inhabit and haunt
a possible mind
in three pounds of putty.
His emerging theory about a low order of communication,
based primarily on how well they could see to copy
(according to reports from the forward-hooking observers)
met the general shrug
if they are smart
why are they so easily caught?
A solo plea for further consideration of these bipeds,
since their numbers were waning rather rapidly lately,
was officially answered.
“These bipeds are just hiding better.
They are to be sought out, hooked, pickled or freshly frozen,
and packaged, quickly.
Get on with the job, get it done.”
Near the end the small voice of a duly constituted committee
that the bipeds could produce an annual image of themselves
and their importance as a continuing food source
should be taken properly into consideration.
The stereophonic modulated reply was,
“…the hooking devices and trained crew would
just move on
to fresh air in a new star system when this one ceased to pay off.
There were many systems
still left to hook.”
And even the nut began to see things like the others.
He pierced the ballooned folly of supposing
a mimicking war-fascinated death-driven polluting
overpopulating cocky species had some glimmer
of the first rays of intelligence.
Consciousness of self yes, a full inspection of the navel,
and the probing of the dirt therein enfolded,
but still awaiting the first rays.
But what of the mind of the sperm whale who they say
had a brain of 20 pounds?
We may never know.
published in The Mind in the Waters, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1974
*Source: David L. Alles, Western Washington University . And Scott McVay
To learn more about the organizations working to save the Cabo Pulmo Coral Reef and sign a petition to strengthen their efforts, click here: Cabo Pulmo Vivo.
Scott McVay was founding executive director of the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation and the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation. He was the sixteenth president of the Chautauqua Institution. He is fascinated by the songs of nature, propelled by the six-octave humpback whale’s song, and the songs of humanity, driven by poetry of the planet throughout history and today.