Friday, August 7, 2009

more cushin for the pushin

Good evening. Man I am beat. This class has really put these old bones through the wringer. Who knew it would be so physically draining yet so intellectually fulfilling! I spent the rest of my day today wandering the harbour and rewalking our day one trip. This time ending up at the ICA for free admission Thursday..followed by a stellar meal at the Barking Crab. I had a perfect vantage point of the dock where Dave, Alexandra and I went feeling around in the murky depths...but I digress...

Today began with us meeting at the State House in downtown Boston to bear witness to Bruce testifying on behalf of Lesser Brewster Island and its endangered and voiceless inhabitants. We were able to hear him reiterate the lessons he has tried to impart on us, as well as learn that there are allies in politics, people who do care about not only governing the people, but making sure the people have a safe and healthy place to live and play.

After the hearing, we beat a hasty retreat back to Long Wharf for one last hoorah. Today's trip: a whale watching cruise out to Stellwagen Bank, a national marine sanctuary situated outside of the Boston harbour that literally stretches the distance between Cape Ann and Provincetown...the entire opening into the Boston harbour is a marine sanctuary. How cool is that! The door to Boston is a rich and fertile feeding ground for some of the worlds most rare and endangered whales. Can we just take a moment to let the gravity of that sink in. Stellwagen Bank is home to Humpback, Minke, Fin, North Atlantic Right Whales, and White-Sided Dolphins. While some of these animals have made a comeback in recent years, the Right whale is still struggling to keep its name off the extinction list.

As excited as I was at the prospect of laying eyes on a near depleted species of whale, I would have been content with anything! Anything but a sleeping humpback whale for 20+ minutes...

The photo above illustrates the way in which a humpback whale sleeps. It is quite fascinating that these whales are 'conscious breathers' which basically means that they must think in order to breathe...kind of like that time you may have had too much to drink and you had to keep reminding yourself to know who you are...but instead of an inner monologue and a restless night, the humpback whale is able to shut off part of its brain and use the other part just to breathe. The whale will switch on and off various parts of its brain in order to continue breathing AND sleeping at the same time. Kind of like when sitting in a boring know you have tried it.

After 20 minutes of waiting for this whale to wake up, Bruce pointing out some spouts he saw in the distance, the boat crew finally decide it is time to try and find some more....interesting subjects to observe.

It did not take long for us to come upon another humpback whale, this guy was considered to be a juvenile, estimated to be about 1-2 years old. He was quite the star of the day! He pretty much spent the entire rest of our stay on the bank breaching (the act of throwing their bodies out of the water almost 2/3 of the way out and splashing down), doing fin waves and being all around cute! It is not yet understood why whales are so animated at times. doing tail and fin flips seem to only please the crowd, but it is theorized that their actions may have a variety of meanings, such as communication, personal grooming, and may even be a part of the courtship/mating ritual. Take a moment to enjoy this photographic interlude:

You will notice that the fins are almost completely white! Incredible! Each whale has distinctive markings that are used to tell them all apart. Like a fingerprint or a sassy new haircut...each whale is identifiable.

These large and beautiful creatures can live longer than any of us can imagine. Even though their life span is not completely known, there has been evidence of a whale surviving for over 100 years. A pretty epic feat in a rapidly dwindling ocean....due to environmental changes and human impact...Humpback whales can grow to be over 50ft in length and weigh upwards of 40tons, these creatures need room to move! Considering that the depth of Stellwagen Bank is roughly 100ft in depth, it takes little to no effort for one of these animals to dive to the bottom and up, no more effort than it takes a person to walk a few steps. I am still amazed at how massive yet graceful they are! I feel so incredibly fortunate for today and this entire week. Thank you all for being a part of my memories and my education!

PS. would/should i eat whale?

This is a hard question to answer....while I consider myself to be a bit of an epicurean explorer..I also understand that not everything exotic should be treated as food. Regardless of what we think a 'strong number' population there exists, we do not fully know the impact overwhaling could have on our environment...already I am quite conscious of the fish I put on my plate due to the overfishing of our waters...Do I want to start eating something that I could possibly bear witness to its removal from this I do not think I would like to see any more animals disappear due to gluttonous consumption.

link to ALL the photos I took today. Feel free to download them and use them for yourself :)

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