Diving with the Right Whale

Photo: Brian Skerry/National Geographic

National Geographic has a neat article about how the Right Whale (Eubalaena glacialis), the "good, or true, whale of ice" is making a comeback. Ironically, the Right Whale's name was given by whalers who thought that their habit of swimming slowly in the shallow coastal waters make them the "right" whales to kill!

"Omigod. That one right there is the fattest young whale I have ever seen." (When judging the condition of northern rights, the scientists pay special attention to the area just behind the blowhole, where the chubbier animals develop a bulge of blubber. Its size has proved to be an accurate predictor of survival.) "We don't even have a category for a whale with a fat roll that big."

Here's the article by Douglas Chadwick: Link - Thanks Marilyn Terrell!

Note: Glynnis McPhee interviewed National Geographic photographer Brian Skerry about his adventure with the Right Whale:

Q: It must have been pretty nerve-racking having such a large animal swim up to you.

A: It was amazing. I mean, I have to tell you there were days when I was at the bottom at 70 feet, and here comes this bus swimming down. I’m standing on the bottom, and as it comes down, I get on my knees, lean over backwards—my scuba tank is now digging into the sand. And of course their eyes are on the side of their heads, so it had to turn and look at me. It came within inches. Here’s this softball-size whale eye looking at me. But then it stops—stops on a dime. It’s just hovering there, and literally one flick of its tail, and it would have crushed me like a bug. But it doesn’t. It was just highly curious. (Source)

The whole thing reminds me of Chris Moore's book "Fluke: or I know Why the Winged Whale Sings" - I'm half waiting for the whale to ask for a pastrami on rye with mustard!

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Not only are the North Atlantic Right Whales NOT making a comeback - now the Navy intends to test their sonar in the NA RW's only known calving ground.

Shame on Nat Geo!

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