Life from a caffeine hyped point of view

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A Whale Story

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“Call me Ishmael. Some years ago – never mind how long precisely – having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world.”  So starts Herman Melville’s epic, Moby Dick, my whale story  though watery, is a trifle different. As a conservationist I am hardly likely to out harpooning whales, on the contrary, it was once a life ambition to go work for Greenpeace, guerilla tactics to save the environment, don’t you just love it! Glamourous ideas of leaping into the ocean in front of boats, chaining oneself to buildings, sure the pay was lousy but you got really good legal representation.  So I didn’t end up working for Greenpeace though I was a member for a while, but I’ve still managed to find myself on protest marches, been part of a human chain facing down bulldozers; no surprise then that one day I found myself holding a whale.

Whales are fascinating creatures, graceful behemoths in their environment, mammals like us humans, but seemingly without the need for drama, death and destruction. They’ve been around as long as mankind, perhaps longer and yet, we seem to so resent them. I’d read that one of the justifications for resuming commercial whaling, aside from the so-called “cultural” was that whales are a threat to fishing stock. Isn’t that crap.  I’m not saying that people do not have a right to honour their cultural heritage, on the other hand, if historically, it was your culture to practice cannibalism, should we honour that? Humans claim all manner of things in the name of culture, but who defines what culture should be and why hang on to customs that are no longer relevant in a current context just because, not for any other reason.

And someone tell me, who gave man the right to decide that we should “own” the world’s fish and question another species right to also eat. We, collectively as a species, have managed to destroy our habitat in a way that no “wild” animal does and yet we are not satisfied we want to oppress every other species on earth. 

I wonder what they must think of us, because surely, they do think. I’ve been out whale watching a few times, had never gotten close but my fascination was unabated. And then several years ago while driving to work in the traffic one morning there was a report on the radio of a mass stranding on Mayaro Beach. Friends were calling my mobile phone, are you going? I was in Port of Spain, Mayaro is on the other coast, I’d just spent an hour in traffic, you bet I was going! I turned around and hightailed it home to grab some shorts. Along the way my ex-husband got in touch with me, he also was going so off we roared together one more time to save the whales. 

There were hundreds of people that day, twelve pilot whales in varying sizes and degrees of distress, two dead, the rest done for if we didn’t get them into the water. Strangers became instant comrades, driving off the circling vultures, winged and two legged.  We walked along the beach, volunteers were hauling whales into the water, trying to get them past the rolling breakers. The sea was choppy that day, the currents treacherous but some committed humans decided to help another species. A smaller animal lay there, barely breathing when I knelt down, five strangers responded to my call and I found myself cradling the head of a whale. What a moment. My position was on level with her eye, we looked at each other and I found myself talking to her. 

Slowly we heaved and got into the water, and stayed there for hours. Buffeted by waves, sand and salt in our eyes. Holding on for dear life supporting our friend who seemed to know that we were trying to help. Gradually getting into deeper water, still being battered by the waves, hope, because she was still breathing. Oh. My. God. I was swimming with a whale! I had to get out after about three hours, my arms could not hold her and I couldn’t tread water anymore. My ex-husband stayed longer, enough for the team to realise that she was managing on her own and let her go to swim further into deeper water. At least we hoped she would. 

That day, with the sun beating down on my head, clothes wet, sticking everywhere, trying to catch my breath on the beach I reflected on Mr. Melville’s story and was glad that the whale got away. 

If you’re interested, take the time to stop whaling now:



Written by coffeewallah

June 18, 2008 at 5:08 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , ,

4 Responses

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  1. Wow


    June 18, 2008 at 5:44 pm

  2. I really, really need to stop watching Discovery and National Geographic, it’s too upsetting!


    June 18, 2008 at 8:03 pm

  3. […] Life from a caffeine hyped point of view takes issue with some of the justifications being made for the resumption of commercial whaling—and recalls the day she found herself “holding a whale” off the southeastern coast of Trinidad. Posted by Skye Hernandez Share This […]

  4. Caffeine can really be helpful if you want to stay awake and work for very long periods of time. ,

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    November 2, 2012 at 8:17 am

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