Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Whale skin

It was my birthday on Easter and I asked my father to take us out into the woods for a hike. I live in the city now and I miss having access to the parks and paths.

On Friday there was a huge storm. Trees were on the path in a few places. We had to climb around and over. For a bit we walked on the beach. Coming around a corner I saw a crowd of people. Then I gasped. On the beach in the circle of people was a dead grey whale. Never having seen a wild whale, either dead or alive, I was in awe.

It was definitely dead, although the barnacles were not. The tail was in the water and the barnacles there were still feeding as the tide washed in plankton. It stank. It only stank sometimes. It would be fine and then there would be a moment when the smell would wash over everything.

I watched the people touching the whale, a real whale! I found it disturbing, as did my little sister who watched from a distance. But I have always been curious. I could not bring myself to touch the flesh, but I did touch the baleen. It brought back all my desire to be a biologist, a dream until the first year of University when I realised how unsuitable I am for the sciences.

My boyfriend told the story to his disgusted co-workers. They expressed moral indignation at the importunity of the spectators. He agreed with them and then told them about how he had seen the whale, and touched the whale, and taken some pieces of it's skin. He gave me some for my birthday. A less disturbing gift then last year but only because last year he gave me Kant's Critique of Pure Reason.

I have the same view of this as of the Garden Protest. Wrong but rather wonderful.


Conda V. Douglas said...

Always sad when one of these great mammals is dead, but I would be fascinated too.

Jesse said...

It is sad. Apparently starvation is common in grey whales, which is how this one died. We're starving the whales, that's just wrong.