21.7 C
Byron Shire
March 3, 2021

A whale of a trip for a newborn

Latest News

Forum to address housing emergency, March 8

A grassroots movement is bringing women, community and art together on International Women’s Day (March 8) in an urgent push to solve the local housing emergency. 

Other News

Senior players triumph at Cherry Street Croquet Club

The experience combination of Joan Campbell (92 years young) and Elaine Astley (89) were able to beat the field and collect a win in the Cherry Streety Twilight Golf Croquet Plate Competition held at Ballina.

Editorial – Ewingsdale development creep rejected by residents

A petition of 294 signatures against rezoning Ewingsdale farmland to commercial use will be presented to councillors for their upcoming Thursday meeting.

Constitutional referendum/poll for LG elections for Byron Shire?

Is the wards fight back again? Byron Shire Council staff have advised, in the upcoming agenda, that ‘Council may conduct a Constitutional referendum or poll in conjunction with the Local Government Election, to be held in September 2021’.

Mt Warning ban

Chris Gee, Byron Bay Indigenous readers be advised that the following letter contains references to persons deceased. I read with some...

Belongil beach hut

L S Lambert, Byron Bay The illegal building on Belongil Beach (Letters, 12 February) is a permanent structure with no...

Praying for Vanuatu in Ballina

The World Day of Prayer is a gigantic ecumenical event staged on the first Friday of March.

Story & photo Mary Gardner

‘Today gave me the opportunity to see that collective voice in action.’ – Paul Watson, Global Action Day, 23 May 2012.

Passersby smiled quizzically at the group outside the Byron Bay library: preschoolers, librarians and parents. This week’s storytime group was standing in a line in the sunshine. Each waved one hand holding a bright bit of cloth tied to a central plaited rope which they held up with their other hand. They were all humming. As the storyteller, snapping a photo, I could explain. This was a collective imagination game. The little group with their props and song was pretending to be a four-metre baby whale. It was just born from the mother as big as a library building and was taking its first breath at the surface of the sea.

The 2012 humpback whale migration is already under way with the first confirmed sighting at Byron Bay on March 25. The majority of whales are seen moving up the East Coast during June and July. After summer months spent in collective feasting on krill in the Antarctic, pregnant whales and female adults are now heading to secret calving places off the coast of Queensland. They teach their yearlings about the route.

A solitary adult male may be a ‘primary escort’. Although other males may jostle and battle hard for that position during the ‘heat run’, the female appears to favour a single one. This was filmed in 2009. Romancing pairs spending hours in foreplay have been photographed in 2010. Mating is still left to our imagination as no humans have filmed this. The writer D H Lawrence famously depicted what must be a mighty coupling in his poem ‘Whales Weep Not’ published after World War 1.

Philip Hoare in his prizewinning 2009 book Leviathan points out that the first underwater film of a living whale was only made in 1984. Before then, we might have imagined what whales were like from what we learned hunting and butchering them in their millions. But in the centuries of our quest for these living sources of oil, we were distracted.

In 1971, Roger Payne and Scott McVay first investigated what sailors heard for generations: the song of humpback whales. The males are heard underwater for fifty to a hundred miles. The songs vary from place to place and year to year. They are not the only species sounding. Sperm whale vocalisations are heard over a thousand miles.

In 2009–10, a new generation of researchers like Hal Whitehead and Chris Clark mapped the bioacoustic world of different species of whales and correlated this with behaviour. Whitehead explains that the sonar abilities of sperm whales could be lethal but are not. Does this suggest they exercise deliberate restraint and make moral decisions?

Clark found noises from ships concentrated in shipping lanes destroy up to 80 per cent of the underwater soundscape on which whales rely. They lose touch with each other. Aren’t they in mortal danger as their social fabric, once destroyed by harpoons, is again ripped apart by noise?

Since 1960, both military and international oil companies blitz the seas with sonar of every frequency as well as deep underwater explosions. In the past dozen years their use has intensified. Imagine living inside a never-ending rock concert, with sounds over 115 decibels and across every frequency. Now dead whales show badly damaged inner ears. What is life like for deaf whales?

The whales pass Cape Byron, dodging our set nets, ships, noise, dredging spoils and pollution. Could we support a renaissance of whale culture? Say, switch from oil to renewable energy? Isn’t that child’s play?

Previous articleOnline following
Next articleCarman has her 15 minutes

Support The Echo

Keeping the community together and the community voice loud and clear is what The Echo is about. More than ever we need your help to keep this voice alive and thriving in the community.

Like all businesses we are struggling to keep food on the table of all our local and hard working journalists, artists, sales, delivery and drudges who keep the news coming out to you both in the newspaper and online. If you can spare a few dollars a week – or maybe more – we would appreciate all the support you are able to give to keep the voice of independent, local journalism alive.

1 COMMENT

  1. What a wonderful article but Im also saddened by the thought that as these whale mothers are moving up the coast, are going to have to be careful of the increase in very large coal and gas cargo ships. The shipping lanes are increasing in there numbers, and the numbers of ship movements is something that minister for the Environment
    Tony Burke should take a very long and hard look at. Shipping should be limited in these times to certain lanes or times but something has to be done. Look at it this way how would you like it if your pregnant wife was on the other side of the road to the hospital and had a wall in-between that moved with little or no chance of you getting her there in time or her being killed on the way. We love our whales and we have names for them, they belong and have been doing this for thousands of years why just because of an economic reason do they have to suffer. Article about this on front page SMH May 14th

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Bangalow blackspot puts school children at risk

Will action ever be taken to protect school kids getting on and off the bus on Lismore Road, Bangalow as trucks fly by at 80km/h?

Lifting the lid on plans to build a retirement village in Ewingsdale

The letter sent to the residents of Ewingsdale last year by holiday park owner Ingenia seemed fairly innocuous at first glance...

Byron’s new road: the good and not so

After more than 30 years of talk, debate, disagreements, tears and political gridlock, Byron Bay has a new road to divert traffic from the CBD to the southern end of town.

Interview with Janet Swain

Janet Swain is 14. She’s in love with the tragic and brilliant cellist Jacquleine DuPré. But one day her mother arrives home with a bassoon.