On National Whale Day, why do you love whales?
When we started National Whale Day five years ago we hoped it would be popular but we didn’t imagine it would grow to the event it is today. Tomorrow on the fifth IFAW National Whale Day around 80 community events are occurring around Australia – incredible! From Cairns to Kalbarri, Port Augusta to Jervis Bay, people all around Australia are showing their love for whales.
Before I saw my first whale in the wild I spent many, many hours staring out to sea, waiting, hoping to see just some small sign that one may be out there. I got to the point where I thought seriously, they’re having a laugh; there are no whales left!
But then one day, standing on a cliff near Hervey Bay, I saw my first humpback breach and it took my breath away. Even though it was far in the distance I was captivated by its sheer power and, in spite of its size, its grace. I know this word is overused but it was magnificent in the truest sense.
My introduction to the world of whales was during a school excursion to the Natural History Museum in London where I saw the skeleton of a massive blue whale suspended from the ceiling. It is so huge and even without the flesh I could appreciate the majesty and power of this creature. I was truly in awe that this was once a living, breathing, swimming giant and not something borne from fiction.
Of course that doesn’t compare to seeing the real thing in the flesh. Since my first, live sighting in Hervey Bay I have seen many whales but it’s not something you could ever get bored with. This year the humpbacks arrived earlier than usual and communities are expecting a bumper whale watching season. While it’s incredibly heartening to hear numbers are increasing we mustn’t lose sight of the fact they are still just recovering and have a long way to go.
When we first had the idea of a national whale day in 2008 we were fired up over the annual Japanese whaling but we wanted it to be a celebration, not another banner waving protest against whaling. We wanted something more positive and also to show how much we love whales and our solidarity in wanting to protect them. We are still fired up about whaling but sadly there are other threats that we are fighting – the oil and gas industry, ocean noise, ship strikes, pollution, debris. While we want National Whale Day to be a celebration, it also has a role to play in raising awareness about the threats still facing these wonderful animals.
We love whales – seriously, I’ve never met anyone who could say they are indifferent to whales and dolphins, that seeing them doesn’t give them an ounce of pleasure, the way they move through the water, their grace and elegance, the incredible journeys they undertake, their mystery…
So why do you love whales? I asked some of my colleagues and friends:
“I like them because they are the ultimate snorkelers…air breathing mammals like us but able to spend long, leisurely periods in the amazing underwater world before popping up, normally just where you weren’t looking, for a bit of air. One of my favourite bits in Finding Nemo is when Dory ‘speaks whale’.”
“Because I know they are out there, I haven't seen one yet, but I’d like to have that opportunity in future.”
“Because they are huge but still move around so gracefully - something I aspire to achieve (the latter that is :-).”
“Because they give people a spectacular show to view each season, something most people love actors for, so why not them?”
“They’re so big! There are so few big things left, if we don’t look after the big things like whales, elephants and gorillas etc the balance will be completely lost.”
Why do you love whales?