Saturday, January 21, 2006

whale watching in london

A great drama of nature - arresting and irresistible - is playing itself out on the River Thames in Central London. A whale was sighted yesterday morning by a man who thought at first that he must be hallucinating. Don't blame him; I'd have thought the same if I'd seen the dorsal fin of a whale when I took the above picture by the Thames on Thursday 12th January, just a week before the 16-18ft northern bottle-nosed whale got stranded thousands of miles from home in the deep blue sea - to find itself dioriented and greatly endangered in the shallow waters of the Thames. This is the first whale seen in the Thames since records began in 1913.

It's a surreal piece of news and thousands have been flocking to the banks of the Thames to catch sight of the whale. There was a lot of anxiety for the whale overnight, when there were real fears that it could have died. Freewilly made it through the night. "We are watching history in the making," I've just heard a SKY News presenter say. And he's right. Something we are not likely to see in the Thames again in a lifetime, something we should never have seen had things been right - with the whale and with nature. A never before attempted (in London anyway) rescue is now under way to try and save the whale.

We know that in the film starring a young Elijah Wood, things ended happily for the cinematic whale. Life does not end tidily and it remains to be seen how this great real life drama will end. Apparently, the very fact that this marine mammal came into shallow waters may be an indication that something is wrong with it. This means the only option is not just to get the whale back to the sea, they may have no choice but to 'put it to sleep', if vets determine that it is too ill to survive in the deep. A tough decision, and thousands of Londoners are watching with keen interest, many of them are standing right there by the banks of the Thames.

"We apologise, this is all a bit London-centric but you will agree this is a pretty extraordinary event," says the SKY presenter. How true.


Blogger Imnakoya said...

What is the Whale? :)

Unusual, isn't? There must be something in the Thames river, for that pooor thing to have gone this far, I wonder what you Brits pour/throw into it?

3:35 pm, January 21, 2006  
Blogger Molara Wood said...

The Whale Died. Below are comments I posted on Naijablog( on the issue...

I guess this answers some of the issues raised by a posting on the same phenomenon, on my blog. Answers some of the issues raised on a personal level since the whale died at 7pm London time last night. Even answers some of the dilemmas acknowledged by public commentators as the drama was unfolding - how thousands can flock to the banks of the Thames, fretting for one marine animal when we know that Japan & Norway are actively killing hundreds of whales daily.

But your post does not answer all the questions, and I wonder whether you would have answers to some of the questions I could throw your way too. The point I'm trying to make, is that no one has all the answers.

Vegetarianism is a choice, should remain a choice, with the recognition that it may not be a choice for many - and that this is valid, too. That one is not vegetarian does not mean that one condones the killing/eating of every animal. It does not mean also, that one would necessarily eat a whale in Norway or Japan... I passed up the opportunity to eat certain kind of game (zebra, giraffe, crocodile) in an 'exotic meat' restaurant in Nairobi once. And in my youth, when they captured an awonriwon (newt) in a small town once, they distributed the exotic meat round all the houses on the street. I refused to eat, and didn't eat stew or meat for days. No way was I going to eat it after seeing all the beautiful colours it had on it's back.

And there is a marked difference in the conveyor-belt, mass killing of animals/chickens to end up on the supermarket shelves in the West in such a way that the buyer completely forgets that it once had a life - to the killings of rams for Sallah, for instance. Those in whose compounds a ram is killed, see the killing; they know a life has been taken - albeit an animal life. That said, I passed on a railway line at Oshodi last year and saw stacks and stacks of bone parts belonging to cows & goats... and that looked to me like the scene of a massacre, and horrified me.

It's complex...

What I know is this: there are animals and there are animals - and that bottle-nosed whale was as magnificent as they come. I don't think I've been had by the media; it is the nature of our existence in these times, that we will experience these feelings en-masse and in an instantaneous fashion, because of media blanket coverage. Am I to blame SKY News for deeming the first whale in those waters in nearly a hundred years worthy of such coverage? In some societies, they would think they've been visited by a god. And I hasten to add, that whilst the British are not exactly calling the UnFreedWilly a god, they're saying the next best thing - that maybe he is an 'envoy' from the deep - to highlight the plight of whales.

Which is why we're even discussing this right now. And this is good enough for me.

12:33 pm, January 22, 2006  
Blogger Jeremy said...

Hi MW. I love your idea of the whale being an "envoy from the deep" - what a beautiful and profound notion.

I think some of the fascination for whales is aesthetic - their immense size, the way they spout etc. But also, I like to think on another level as sentient intelligent beings we subliminally recognise our aquatic equivalent. Whales have far larger brains than us and are a much older species. Whale music sounds like an avant garde jazz form of fax music - who knows what stories from the deep, what narratives of love and loss, and what fantastic geographies they imbue in their conversations within the pod? The whale, like in Moby Dick, is a figure for that sublime moment of awe, against which we human recognise our frailty, our newness and our smallness in the scheme of things. Rest in peace, bold blubber.

1:04 pm, January 22, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

mw, you're talking a load of shite. don't try and justify or intellectualise your prediliction for flesh and blood.

You are an aesthete (and I enjoy this about your writing), but you also need to sort out your ethics. Aesthetics without ethics is meaningless. We need both. But because you haven't thought through the ethical dimensions of killing/blood-letting through very well, you can only make lame arguments to justify your continued devouring of flesh. give us a break.

Yes, jeremy you give a good account of why the likes of mw would feel something for the Whale, but then the issue is this, this same people are quiet happy to go along with animal (even on whales) testing without flinching so long as it helps humans.

get life the both of you and think through your ethics.

6:02 pm, January 23, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

MW...I fully support and understand your the pont that you were making about the whale and about being a meat-eater. The agression of the writtings of 'The-annonymous-vegeetarina/vegan or whatever he/she may be; just goes to demonstarte the lack of telorenace that's demonstrate bay most non-meat-eating humans!! LONG-LIVE okro-ogbono with assorted meat!!! your fan from N12!

11:16 pm, January 23, 2006  

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