A Whale of a Tale

I warn you now this post isn’t for the faint hearted, it’s gruesome in nature but also tackles the circle of life, but perhaps not explained as well as Mufasa the king of lions.
Two days ago I came on watch and had my usual handover consisting of checklists, position verification, confirmation that we are on a heading that doesn’t affect the TV signal and a discussion of what is was for lunch, I was certainly not expecting anything out of the ordinary. My colleague told me that they had encountered a whale carcass floating on the surface of the water and it was drifting to North, I said “right I’m off to find it, I bet I can tell what it is, apart from dead…and floating”
As many of you will know from previous posts I have had the very good fortune of having a fair amount of whale interaction in my time at sea and I have also sailed with professional spotters whose knowledge of whales was quite fascinating. During my relatively short time at sea I’ve have the pleasure of seeing blue whales, fin whales, sei whales, humpback whales, bowhead whales, sperm whales, northern and southern right whales, pilot whales, Antarctic minke whales and my personal favourites orca whales (although technically they are dolphins). With all that I had seen and had learnt over the years I was absolutely convinced that I could positively identify the remains.
So I set about trying to find the body which was approximately 10 nautical miles away, yes that’s right… We have our own miles!!! I probably shouldn’t say this but I increased our speed slightly and headed off in the direction of the last known location, I then accounted for the current using a tidal diamond we have specifically for the FPSO location and proceeded to what I calculated to be the most likely position after accounting for drift. I reduced the range on my x-band RADAR and fine tuned it, in the hope that I could use it spot the body on the surface, once I got within 2 miles of it I could quite clearly see it visually and on the RADAR. The weather was almost mirror seas so despite how low lying it was in the water it wasn’t difficult to tune.
I made my way over to the position of the floating beast making sure I took pictures of the approach the best I could whilst also concentrating on a proper approach course and speed so as to not disrupt it or the birds perched upon it’s back. One must consider that it is still a dangerous obstruction in the water albeit and interesting one. I wanted to get close enough to identify it but not so close that I could cause any damage or problems for the ship, a unique ship handling opportunity indeed!
As it happens there wasn’t enough of the whales body floating far enough to the surface to positively identify it which I was not happy about, ┬ábut the chance to try was still a satisfying experience. If I were to hazard a guess I’d say it was a humpback whale as it was certainly large enough and had huge flippers that I saw briefly from a bob caused by the ships wake but I can’t say for sure.
After taking some pictures (that I’m really not that happy with) I turned tail, pardon the pun! And went back to sailing stand by, away from the body to leave it peace and for the birds to carry on about their business as is the natural order of things governed by the circle of life.
I hope you like the pictures, as you can see it was very large and white in colour, I will put this down to the age of the carcass and not the actual colour of the whale as it was the head that was floating and it was too large to be a beluga whale. I’m not particularly happy with the picture quality but I’ve given my DSLR to my Dad to take with him to the Bahrain Grand Prix….lucky so and so!!!
The Mariner
This entry was posted on Thursday, April 11th, 2013 at 4:37 am by The Mariner. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
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