Whale song

The major news on island this past week is, unfortunately, bad news:

Poor baby. ;(

Poor baby. :( Photo courtesy of Leslie Tears-Smith.

Beached baby

This beached baby humpback whale was found on Torii beach on Wednesday, March 20th. Those who first saw the calf at sea wanted to try to rescue her, but she was already dead. No one’s really sure what happened, and it’s an oddity–a beached whale hasn’t happened in Okinawa for at least 10 years (according to the same previously linked article).

Like a train wreck, you can’t turn away

When photos started circulating on Facebook, many rushed over to Torii to see it up close and get pictures, especially since it was announced that they’d be restricted from seeing it Friday, the day the aquarium crew needed to get in there to deal with the body. Indeed, it may have been the only chance some might’ve had to see an entire humpback up close.

Photo courtesy of Leslie Smith.

Photo courtesy of Leslie Tears-Smith.

To see, or not to see

Even though we’re still in whale watching season out here (the endangered humpbacks pass through this part of the Pacific from January to April), in the tours you tend to only catch short glimpses–a tail here, a fin there.

I didn’t rush over to see the carcass. I didn’t feel the desire to; seeing the pictures was enough. Everyone I talked to who did check it out, said it was just really sad. Considering what the humpbacks are like when full of life, I can imagine. And it was just a wee babe, after all. Okay, maybe not so “wee” at 33 feet long, but you know what I mean.

Free Willy moment

The death is sad, but at the same time, it reminds me of how wonderful it is to interact with the humpbacks when they travel through. The hubby and I went on a  whale watching tour around Okinawa’s coast a couple years ago. We didn’t even get a chance to have breakfast before the tour, but that may have been a good idea–so many people got sea sick on our tour boat, including all the kids. But we did get to see the whales up close, and it was awesome.

I know I use that word a lot, especially in these videos, but it really was. These creatures are majestic, peaceful.

They’re even playful! Check out what this flirty one does at the 2:40 mark:

You mad, bro?

I don’t know why, but I guess I harbored the expectations that the whales wouldn’t be this friendly and eager to interact with humans. Weren’t we, after all, the ones who helped make their species endangered? Weren’t we the ones creating all of the garbage that was seeping into the oceans until they became their own trashy islands, with plastic and chemicals and toxins then working their way into and up the food chain?


And weren’t we the ones spilling millions of barrels of oil into their fragile ecosystems, causing extensive, long lasting damage that we can only begin to study?

Yet, the whales seemed to enjoy seeing and playing to their human audiences, as much as we humans were excited to spot them.


Gentle giants

There’s something about witnessing how gentle these enormous creatures are (when they could, if they wanted, “throw their weight around” and capsize boats) that makes you feel both humble and joyful. That the world maybe isn’t such a terrible place to live in, and in fact, life is simple, beautiful, and grand at the same time.

Sure, the whales most likely aren’t even aware (at least not on a conscious level) of the ways that humans have forever disrupted their world.  Or maybe they are aware, and if so, what would that mean if they were still willing to be gentle and peaceful toward the species that caused them the most harm? How much more would we, the “advanced” species, need to learn from them?


Advanced, but not in a good way

And maybe that’s both the irony and the point. How advanced, how conscious are we of the ways in which our small, simple actions, like using plastic grocery bags, or needing gasoline to power our vehicles, create ripples in the amount of time that life can sustain on this planet? When done in tandem with billions of others, those small ripples become waves, helping us to swiftly advance the use/ deplete the earth’s natural resources and march us toward extinction.

environment meme1

The butterfly effect

I’ll get off my soapbox to hug a tree in a minute, but I thought the sobering, unfunny story of a dead baby whale might serve as an opportunity for all of us (including myself) to think about how we are creating a (not too distant) future without these beings. Is it really so hard to imagine? And, if and when they’re extinct, how does that then affect the rest of the ecosystem forever–what sort of domino effect will this create for the rest of the planet? Or did you think it wouldn’t have any real bearing or cost on our seemingly insulated human lives? The more you think about it, the more you realize–we’re all  interconnected. We need trees to breathe, we need healthy ecosystems to grow food and eat. It’s the butterfly effect–one small change in one part of the world, like a butterfly flapping its wings, creates major consequences in another part of the world. You get the picture. Or, if not, here’s a picture:



Maybe we should look more at the oceans, as reflections of our (seemingly small) actions and their consequences, as mirrors to not just our species’, but our planet’s vitality and survival, and as living, breathing symbols of our vast power to create, renew, and destroy.

Be the change

We don’t know (yet) what ended this baby whale’s life, but are there things we can do to not cause other lives (whales or otherwise) to die carelessly? I hope and believe so, and a huge step in that direction is simply becoming more aware of our role in pollution, resource consumption, and extinction, and then help others do the same. As with all situations, we have to face these issues head on instead of pretending that they don’t exist or that there’s nothing we can do (so why try?). And when we get overwhelmed, it’s important to remember to just do the very best that we can, even if that’s just a bit. Because that bit is a ripple, and lots of those ripples become waves, and–you get the idea.

make a difference