Over 23 days, despite mobilization of an international team to one of the planet's most remote locations and efforts to herd them out, an estimated 50 whales would die, largely of exposure, in the Loza Lagoon.
It is serious, deadly, and frightening -- both in what is going on under the ocean surface, and the lack of laws and controls to protect whales, dolphins, and other animals.
They inspire awe, because they're magnificent, massive, beautiful, powerful, and mysterious. Like giant sequoias but mammals -- like us, except on a prehistoric, mythological, global scale. Everything about them is huge -- their size, their sounds, their range, their strength, their history.
Serendipity does sometimes smile upon me, and it did a few months ago when I was on a tossing, rolling tin motorboat on the roiling South Pacific off the Austral island of Rurutu in French Polynesia, looking for whales.
Whales, dolphins, seals and sea lions got a good break this week when a judge told a federal wildlife agency it's not doing enough to protect them from Navy war exercises along the West Coast.
Whales fled the area prior to the seismic phase of the survey, which shows that even this type of sonar (also used by military and research vessels) is devastating to whale and dolphins.
This new science, combined with today's report on the whales killed by seismic technology in Madagascar, should be reason enough to at least put this proposal on hold, if not stop it in its tracks.
I imagine us, soaring over the sea ice, over my greys. We were so close. Why is nothing working? What am I doing chasing whales anyway? Who do I think I am? Doctor effing Doolittle?
Imagine you are in the ocean. You hear the lapping of waves, the squeals of dolphins, and the swish of swimming schools of fish -- all sounds you expect to hear underwater. But then a boat glides overhead, and the chatter is drowned by a deafening roar.
The lone pilot whale who stranded this week was described as showing behavior that resembled a "stroke," but that behavior -- uncoordinated, unable to swim upright -- would also be the result of any trauma to the brain, including that known to be caused by loud sound.
Seismic: seis•mic adjective \ˈsīz-mik, ˈsīs-\ : of, subject to, or caused by an earthquake; also : of or relating to an earth vibration caused...
Our oceans are ailing, and when dolphins and whales wash ashore they are sounding the alarm bells, but is anyone listening? Our dirty oil addiction is...
We might not want to accept the whales' offers of half-eaten raw fish, but we do want to learn what they can teach us about the other intelligent, family oriented beings who share our planet, and to understand their role in the ecosystem.
Space, Zigmund understands, is not just utilitarian: it is symbolic. It is real and imaginary and it is a repository for meaning, memory and human interaction.
It is OK to discuss the issue from the viewpoints of biodiversity or environmental balance as long as they remain scientific arguments. If some kinds of whales are on the brink of extinction, we should stop the whaling of them. But if the criticism comes from cultural difference or preference, I would argue that there are other cultures in other places.
Humans will sink or swim with the rising tides of "global weirding." What better time to remember and apprentice ourselves to the mermaid myths that have inspired us for thousands of years?