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Risso's dolphin at surface

My lucky number – 13 years studying amazing Risso’s dolphins

Everything we learn about the Risso's dolphins off the coast of Scotland amazes us and...
Dead sperm whale in The Wash, East Anglia, England. © CSIP-ZSL.

What have dead whales ever done for us?

When dead whales wash up on dry land they provide a vital food source for...
Risso's dolphin © Andy Knight

We’re getting to know Risso’s dolphins in Scotland so we can protect them

Citizen scientists in Scotland are helping us better understand Risso's dolphins by sending us their...
Pilot whales pooing © Christopher Swann

Talking crap and carcasses to protect our planet

We know we need to save the whale to save the world because they are...
Fin whale (balaenoptera physalus) Three fin whales Gulf of California.

Speaking truth to power – my week giving whales a voice

The International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting is where governments come together to make decisions about whaling...

Why do whales and dolphins strand on beaches?

People often ask me 'why' whales and dolphins do one thing or another.  I'm a...
A spinner dolphin leaping © Andrew Sutton/Eco2

Head in a spin – my incredible spinner dolphin encounter

Sri Lanka is home to at least 30 species of whales and dolphins, from the...
Orca (ID171) breaches off the coast of Scotland © Steve Truluck.

Watching whales and dolphins in the wild can be life changing

Whales and dolphins are too intelligent, too large and too mobile to ever thrive in...

Right Whales: A Love Story- So, Who Cares About a Whale That Most of Us May Never See?

By Peter C. Stone

So, who cares?

That was the first question I heard when I began to learn about the story of the North Atlantic right whale. It seemed a fair one to ask, and might have applied to any number of species. Who does care? Why not worry about other creatures, the bugs or birds or bears that also inhabit this earth?

 It turns out that in such questions lies the answer. For when we consider the web of life that in reality “takes care” of us, we soon find that every organism plays a role in sustaining that web.

 The more scientists I spoke to—beginning with Michael Moore at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, and Amy Knowlton, Scott Kraus and Moira Brown at the New England Aquarium—the more it seemed that not only science could teach us about the importance of every species in the ocean. It was actually a whale from whom we could learn.

 That was the revelation to guide the mythological journey called Waltzes with Giants. A journey through twilight.

 Built upon questions, the book aims to tell a science story, one based upon decades of passionate research, through a literary voice and visual art. While following the migration route of this perilously endangered mammal, those questions—asked by scientists and artists—also highlight the music of the oceans in poetic language and mystical images.

 But how can we find poetry in arguments between scientists and governments, environmentalists and industries? Why should we care about creatures entangled in lobsterpot lines and not about the lobsterman trying to make a living and feed his family?

The book’s foreword asks these things and more.

 What could be more imperative than the U.S. Navy’s ability to train and test personnel and weapons, ships and submarines, without being restricted by the presence of something that few of us will ever see? Suppose we don’t even know whether an animal is vital to the health of the lands and waters that nourish us? 

Ah, but can we afford to take that chance?

You see? As with good science, once you start asking questions, it’s tough to stop.

 What if there is knowledge out there that we have yet to acquire? “We are terrifyingly ignorant,” says farmer and author Wendell Berry. “…The acquisition of knowledge always involves the revelation of ignorance.”

Besides, even if some of us don’t care, is it our right to vanquish any other being from the realm of existence? And what are the costs of throwing away several hundred million years of evolutionary wisdom that each species possesses?

In other words, can we afford to miss the real-time lessons learned from an organism we have studied in great depth? Perhaps we need to regain a sense of wonder for the world around us, to observe and imagine, and to learn some humility and respect for the things we do not know. 

The passion of many dedicated scientists is behind what we do know of this endangered creature. It also fueled the paintings and words that were inspired as much by the right whale itself. 

Yet, the North Atlantic right whale is still highly endangered, impacted daily by the pressures we consumptive two-legged creatures place on the oceans.

 Because the story is not yet done. Keep in mind the image of twilight. Twilight does not only precede the descent into darkness. Half the time, it foretells the coming of the dawn. 

 

Peter C. Stone’s Waltzes with Giants, The Twilight Journey of the North Atlantic Right Whale (Skyhorse, 2012) is a selection of the Children’s Book-of-the-Month Club and a winner of the USA Best Book Awards in Children’s Hardcover Non-Fiction.

His newest book is Dreams to Dance in Moonlight, Ways of Seeing Feeling & Imagining (Outskirts, 2014).

WDC is grateful to our guest bloggers and value their contributions to whale conservation. The views and opinions expressed by our guest bloggers are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent those of, and should not be attributed to, WDC.