It has been a sobering realization for me. Of all of the days I have spent on the ocean it always has been relaxing, awe inspiring or just plain amazing. As Skipper Bob of Trinity Eco-Tours, I have enjoyed my time on the ocean as much as the guests. I always pictured the whales as the gentle giants that were kings of a domain that did not follow the rules of our world, no stress, no deadlines, and no struggles. It is not hard to understand that train of thought when you see Humpbacks tailfinning, pectoral slapping, breaching or Atlantic Dolphins at play jumping across the heads of Fin Whales. Those are scenes that guests and I have shared. So to see Killer Whales attack and eat a Minke Whale last year was shocking to our guests as well as me.
Orcas are a rare treat in these waters. They are a beautiful, intelligent, vibrant mammal. I’ve always thought of them eating Herring, Squid, Capelin, the lower rungs in the food chain. It is not right to minimalise the role that all species play or their individual worth but whales, dolphins, porpoises and all air breathing ocean dwellers are dear to our hearts. It could be that they survive based upon the birth and nurturing of their young rather than the concept of survival of some based upon sheer numbers. Or it could be because we all were land dwellers at one time maybe. Many of us seek out encounters with our air breathing water borne cousins to restore our faith in the beauty of nature thus restoring ourselves.
So it was a shock to realise that we all struggle including whales. I often say it is the Law of the Jungle: Eat or Be Eaten. Top rungs of the food chain ladder like whales do have to fear Orcas as well as the ultimate predator, ourselves. We are getting better at recognising where we stand in the overall Big Picture by protecting whales and intervening like Greenpeace has done in the Antarctic whaling campaigns. Those whales are killed by the Japanese under the guise of scientific research. Hopefully Greenpeace has completely stopped them. We should all strive to be better humanitarians like the individuals of that organisation. Check Greenpeace out on their website.
Also whales have to struggle to find enough to eat to survive to get through the lean times, feed their young which also include killer whales feeding their young in the way that they know how. I saw that display on that same fateful day as a baby Orca also fed off the same Minke Whale. A few days later I watched as the infant mimicked its mother breaching along side of our boat, a magical scene. It belied the fact that they were both killers capable of doing what they needed to do to survive but in that moment they were the most awesome/beautiful experience I have ever had at sea.
I do not look at whales the same anymore. The ocean is not a trouble or care free world for its inhabitants. It is a world fraught with danger from time to time and a struggle to survive. It offers pleasures as well as pains to its residents. Whenever I have been in the company of whales feeding or at play since, I really consider myself privileged. Not because I did not appreciate them before but because the guests and myself only really see whales feeding or frolicking happily. Their lives are more complicated than that. We get the best of them.