Thursday, July 28, 2011

Whale... whaleS

To date, I have been on four whalewatching trips in Monetery (CA), Sydney, Alaska and Boston. The first two trips were unpleasant: an hour journey to the site, choppy waters, strong winds and bitter cold. I wouldn't complain so much about such dreadful conditions if I had been compensated with clear sightings of the whales. However, I only saw one whale from afar in Monetery, and I saw none in Sydney.

I was in Alaska last month. The whale watching cost me $120 but it was worth it. We took a small boat out that could take only around 30 people (usually whale watching boats are huge). The waters were calm and within 10 mins of sailing, we saw one, no, two whales! They were close to the boat and I was surprised that they were swimming close to the shorelines. My previous two experiences told me that I had to be in the open sea to see the whales, but this was different. When we went to another site, we saw more whales.

Then when Prof Berman said we were going on a whale watching trip, honestly, I didn't expect too much. I selfishly thought never mind if I didn't see one, as I already had the best whale watching experience in Alaska recently. One hour later when we reached the Atlantic ocean, the annoucement came on that we had a Minke whale (a smaller species). Then we started to see some humpback whales. There were two, hey wait, three of them! The guide said that this was a rare sighting as you usually see a pair - the mother and calf. So today it was a family outing for the three whales, I guess. On our way back to Boston Harbor, we were in for another surprise. Two whales were playfully flapping their flippers and then to our amazement, one of them leapt up in the air and whoosh! - it fell back into the water. That was magnificent!

The guide said that the clean water and absence of fishing gear are factors that attract the whales to roam around this area. Clearly, good rules and regulations as well as cooperation from everyone can help protect the whales. The topic of whale hunting was brought up. I personally do not object to it, as long as there's some responsible regulatory body to oversee the whale population to make sure that our hunting activity and eating habits do not wipe them out. I don't know how tasty whale meat is as I haven't got the chance to try it. I will like to actually, out of curiosity. But I doubt whale meat will become staple food like rice and potatoes. As a delicacy, there shouldn't be a drastic decline in the population. Just like sharks fin, caviar and black truffles that each cost a bomb. How often do you eat them?

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