The Song of the Whale

I Will Remain Forever

Baja California, Mexico

This is a subject dear to my heart, especially at this time of year when the California Gray Whale journeys from Arctic waters to warmer Mexican waters in the San Ignacio Lagoon, Ojo de Liebre, and Bahia Magdelena.

Long ago within the depths of the sea there lived a creature that terrorized any man who set eyes on its enormous shape as it glided over the waves, dove deep into blue waters only to emerge again to breach and breathe which struck terror in the hearts of men.

Among sailors of early times, this animal was known as the Devilfish. Little did they know of its intelligence and gentle ways; an animal so enormous yet so forgiving and kind.

In 1971 in the San Ignacio Lagoon of Baja California, Mexico, a local fisherman, Francisco “Pachico” Mayoral originally thought the stories of the Gray Whale, the “Devil Fish” were true until one day while out fishing a Gray Whale swam up to the side of his boat. Before that, there had been no known contact between humans and whales without a fight, and one of them ended up dead.

Pachico, as he was known, tried to get away from the whale in his small eight-person panga but wherever he rowed, the whale followed him. Terrified for his life, he didn’t know what to do. The whale dove under his boat and hovered near its side.

Pachico was surprised the whale wasn’t acting aggressively as old fisherman tales described. He silently watched the whale raise its head out of the water and rub itself on the side of the boat. Something inspired Pachico when he gently reached out and touched the whale.

Much to his surprise the whale rolled on its side and began friendly engagement with him. That was the beginning of eco-tourism in the San Ignacio Lagoon.

To this day, Pachico’s grandchildren, who still live on the lagoon, now marine biologists, take care of this sanctuary and the whales just as Pachico, their grandfather once did with love and passion equal to his own.

For years the whale was hunted in the waters of its home. Speared with steel pronged harpoons, then hauled aboard large ships only to be cut to pieces, sometimes while still alive.

The use of whale oil declined considerably from its peak in the 1820s due to the dwindling whale population. Thus, the market changed as mineral oils were discovered and the expansion of chemical refineries began to produce kerosene. This is said to have saved the whales from total extinction.

A movie that clearly depicts the savagery of the whaling industry is, The Heart of the Sea, click on the link to view the trailer. The epic story of men and myth later became Herman Melville’s classic, Moby Dick.

Poet, Kit Wright wrote The Song of the Whale, based on the killing of whales for human benefit. His grief is shown towards whales and their condition due to basic human needs.

The Song of the Whale

Heaving Mountains in the sea,

Whale, I heard you grieving,

great whale crying for your life,

crying for your kind,

I knew how we would use you,

your dying,

lipstick for our painted faces, polish for our shoes.

Tumbling mountain of the sea,

Whale, I heard you,

calling bird high notes, keening,

soaring,

at their edge a tiny drum,

like a heartbeat.

Where I live, I see many whales every year. I hear stories of their kindness to visitors who travel from far away places who, with outstretched hands, in a fleeting moment hope to touch these kings of the sea.

When the whaling industry was at its height humans found they could light their homes and polish their shoes among other extravagancies at the whale’s expense. This was a time in history, a time of industry thought appropriate.

Two of the biggest whaling towns were Nantucket and New Bedford. In the mid-nineteenth century, New Bedford, Massachusetts, the center of the whaling industry in the U.S. according to an 1854 American newspaper, was the richest city in the U.S. if not the world.

As time moves on, we’ve found new and innovative ways to live and light our way without endangering other living species that share our world with us. Still, there is much to learn. We haven’t perfected the final cease of the whaling industry. Unfortunately, money has its hold on men, the economy, and commerce

New methods of industry have greatly enhanced our lifestyles. This writer is happy to say she will enjoy watching these gentle animals every year when mothers nudge their calves to the water’s surface and hover next to our boats for all to admire.

The Song of the Whale, if it were up to me would read, “I will remain forever”

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