Spring Tragedy

April 9th, 2010 | 4 Comments
Mystery and Grace, Whales

Wednesday April 7, 2010 – This morning I got a call from my friend, photographer John Todaro (http://bit.ly/deKPot): a young whale was washing ashore the main beach in town. I met him down there and, yes, a juvenile Humpback Whale was in the surf, alive.

humpback whale by carl safina

Unlike the whale in my children’s book (http://bit.ly/cgVmKj), for this whale there would be no happy ending.

The whale was clearly ailing. It made occasional sounds that seemed similar to moaning. It occasionally raised its tail. Its eye opened at times and closed at others.

humpback whale by carl safina

It did not seem simply stranded in water too shallow. (In fact the tide was rising.) It seemed too weak to swim.

A young whale on its first northbound journey in the first spring of its life, it somehow got separated from its mother.

I watched for about an hour. The authorities were gathered: marine mammal rescue people (there was nothing they could do), police (they merely kept people away), reporters, plus a small crowd of quiet onlookers.

humpback whale by carl safina

Sadly, without its mother and in its weakened condition, it had no hope of survival.

It might have been sick, or its mother might have gotten sick or died—or hit by a ship, or perhaps tangled in fishing gear.

The gulf between the whale and humanity was just a few steps, but unbridgeable. We all wished we could help. We could not help. We all wanted to save it. Japan insists we must kill more.

PS – after two days the whale was euthanized.

4 Responses to “Spring Tragedy”

  1. OrcaWild says:

    Such a sad story. I wonder why, if nothing could be done, it was not euthanized earlier?

    With all we know of thier challenges — entanglement, reduced food supply, climate change, ship strikes — the direction the IWC is headed makes no sense. They should be doing more to help them and protect them.

    • Carl Safina says:


      I don’t know why they didn’t act sooner, either.
      As for the Internatonal Whaling Commission, i agree 100%. Why is it headed that way? Greed, nationalism, ideology… the list is short.

  2. Jonathan ALfaro says:

    I just do not understand however, why is it that the whale can not be pulled back into deeper water if found early enough . . .? My entire life I have read and heard stories of whales, along with other marine mammals, and it saddens me a great deal that the great majestic animals face greater dangers and hardships everyday, and yet with all of our technology and intellect we continue to fail them; for it is our duty, and within out power, to protect all life on this planet.

  3. This poor ill young whale has become a poster child for the efforts of so many.
    In vain, we try to protect the endangered & the ill, from thoughtlessness,&
    from greed driven industries that only see profit as their greatest motive. It is my
    hope that every single person thinks about what they can do to support your efforts
    to help the oceans heal.
    Now the with the trauma of the rig explosion in the Gulf, we must all turn our focus
    towards getting big oil rigs out of our oceans.

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