The Dangers of Whale-Watching

Tourists touching a Gray Whale in the Bahia  of Mexico http://www.examiner.com/article/baja-airventures-offers-best-of-baja-s-whales-dolphins-and-sea-lion-tour

Tourists touching a Gray Whale in the Bahia of Mexico
(Image: http://www.examiner.com)

 

For unaccountable reasons, some people believe communion with dolphins and whales can be a spiritual and healing experience.

Consequently, there is a strong desire to swim with whales or touch them and this can lead to unfortunate outcomes.

It seems highly likely that whales, when pressed or hunted, can fight back and even bear grudges

Killer Whales depicted preying on shipwrecked sailors. https://craftdmoviecritiques.files.wordpress.com/2013/12/bf-23.jpg?w=543&h=341

Killer Whales depicted preying on shipwrecked sailors
(Image: https://craftdmoviecritiques.files.wordpress.com)

 

There are generally very few instances of whales causing harm to humans.

An exception may be particular killer whales (Orcinus orca).

However, it’s interesting to note that there have been fewer recorded instances of whale aggression toward boats since whaling was largely stopped.

It seems highly likely that whales, when pressed or hunted, can fight back and even bear grudges.

Herman Melville was inspired to write his classic novel Moby Dick after hearing a story from The Captain of the Essex

Illustration from Herman Mellville's book, Moby Dick https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/8b/Moby_Dick_final_chase.jpg

Illustration from Herman Melville's book, Moby Dick
(Image: https://upload.wikimedia.org)

The novel, Moby Dick was inspired by a true story.

In 1820, a giant sperm whale, apparently 85 feet long (the average is 50ft) attacked a whaleship named the Essex, causing her to sink.

Her crew were left adrift in three whaleboats (lighter boats used in the capture of whales) thousands of miles from land.

Alone in the middle of the Pacific Ocean the men had to decide whether to head for the nearest islands, a thousand miles downwind to the west, or set out on an epic journey of almost three thousand miles to reach the South American mainland.

Fear of cannibals forced them to choose South America, but they never made it.
Of the 21 crew members aboard The Essex, just eight members of the crew were rescued after more than 80 days at sea; with an incredible tale of starvation, dehydration and unfathomable, mortal desperation to tell.

The death of a Canadian whale-watching tourist in early 2015 on the Mexican coast was caused by a grey whale which apparently breached onto the boat

Efforts to revive a woman injured on a whale-watching tourist boat in March 2015 http://www.pressreader.com/canada/national-post-latest-edition/20150313/281479274891000/TextView

Efforts to revive a woman injured on a whale-watching tourist boat in March 2015
(Image: http://www.pressreader.com)

These creatures are curious and will often approach tourist boats and allow people to touch them on their heads.

This has led to an expectation of this experience by tourists, taking no account of the fact that animals may vary in their mood and aggression, particularly when they have a calf in tow.

Furthermore, tourist operators may be pressured to approach whales and, in the process, pose as a threat.

Remnant Gray Whale populations have undergone a welcome resurgence

The Migration Path of Gray Whales along the west coast of North America Gray whale migration routehttp://oneillseaodyssey.org/expand-your-knowledge/surface-temperature/

The Migration Path of Gray Whales along the west coast of North America
Gray whale migration route (Image: http://oneillseaodyssey.org)

The grey whale is an interesting cetacean in that it is a bottom feeder, sweeping up small invertebrates from the sea floor.

There is a suggestion that historically it was widely distributed across the globe until it was locally exterminated along the coast of Africa and the Mediterranean.

Remnant populations along the west coast of North America have undergone a welcome resurgence and there have even been recent sighting off the coast of Namibia and in the Mediterranean.

The caution is to recall that grey whales were known to early hunters as devilfish because of their tendency to attack whaleboats.

That should be enough encouragement to observe and appreciate them at a safe distance.

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