Cruise ship stumbles on a rare sight: a gathering of 1,000 whales

It is indeed heartening to hear that the population of fin whales has rebounded and that there are now 1,000 of them in the wild. Fin whales were once hunted extensively and were on the brink of extinction, so their recovery is a testament to the importance of conservation efforts.

While it is important to celebrate this success, we must also recognize that fin whales, along with many other species, are still threatened by various human activities such as climate change, overfishing, and habitat destruction. Therefore, we must continue to take action to protect them and their ecosystems.

Conservation efforts can take many forms, including the establishment of protected areas, reducing plastic waste, supporting sustainable fishing practices, and reducing carbon emissions. By working together and taking action, we can ensure that more species like the fin whale continue to recover and thrive in the wild.

The good news doesn’t show up on your face anymore. His 1,000 fin whales, one of the world’s largest animals, were spotted swimming in the same sea last week. It’s as if the person never existed.

This vast assemblage spanned an 8 km wide area between the South Orkney Islands and the Antarctic Peninsula. One whale is great. Imagine a misty forest of spouts as high as pine trees, the explosive sound of punches, hot breath condensed in the icy air. Their sharp dorsal fins and steel-grey bodies glide through the waves like a whale ballet choreographed in the far south of the planet.

This spectacle left whale scientists wide-eyed with the envy of Connor his Ryan, who was watching it from the polar cruiser National Her Geographic Her Endurance. Through clever connections, veteran zoologist and photographer Ryan says the vessel could be “one of the largest collections of fin whales ever recorded.” He says his estimate of 1,000 is conservative.
Fin whales are amazingly slender, snake-like creatures when seen underwater, so long that it seems to take forever to swim. Like the blue, humpback and minke whales, they are baleen whales and are characterized by having keratin plates that filter food instead of teeth. Unlike toothed whales such as sperm whales and killer whales, they are not considered social animals. In Moby-Dick, Herman Melville classifies fin whales as: Always walking alone…Cain of his invincible race who was banished.

So is it really good news? At least 2 million whales have been killed in the same ocean in the last 100 years. Even now that the fin whale has been found to live the longest, he lives up to 140 years, and the effects of this selection are still being felt in their culture. Our assumption that fin whales are not ‘social’ animals may actually be because they changed their behavior to avoid whalers, as sperm whales did in the 19th century. Scientists suspect that baleen whales have also learned not to congregate in large groups to stay ahead of hunters. Ryan likes to call himself a “whale geek.” He and his best friend Peter Wilson published his first peer-reviewed scientific paper on killer whales in 2001, when he was just 14. When he returns from this trip, he will write another piece. Despite his 20 years at sea, Ryan has never seen a ship like it. “I’m speechless,” he says. “I’ve probably seen 100 fins in the last few years. Thousands of chinstrap penguins, petrels and albatrosses…were also unusually mild,” he adds. 

If you think Ryan is blessed, so should we be. Whales face many threats, mainly from us. It’s also good to remember that the protests that saved whales in the 1970s and his ’80s will be banned once new police crime laws take effect. In a world constrained by suffering and threats to democracy (it’s a good job whales don’t have to claim collective rights), 1,000 fin whales can’t help but lift our hearts. They might convince us that they still have a chance of surviving “all this,” as another species of (possibly) sentient mammal. The main thing is that we band together and send some protest bars ourselves. 

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