Saturday, February 2, 2008

Whale Songs

It is easy to forget nature sometimes, living in the city.

Friends were visiting last weekend from the Samana Peninsula, and reminded me that the Whales have arrived.

The Dominican Republic is the birth place of the entire North Atlantic family of humpback whales. They travel here from as far away as Norway and Greenland. They do not eat for six months while en route and down here giving birth. They come to the warm shallow waters in Samana Bay and off the Silver Banks to mate and birth. Each year, the males start their journey singing a new song, different songs. By the time they reach the DR, all are singing the same song.

Click here to hear a bit of their singing.

While many people may have been whalle watching, fewer have seen these great mammals in their breeding cycle. During this time, they are closer to the surface more of the time since a newborn whale can only be on the surface a minute at a time. And then must dive down to nurse, drinking, I think I remember, about a gallon of milk a minute. They must learn to swim beneath the waves within their first three months, ready to make their northern passage back to the feeding grounds before the adults run out of strength.

Each whale has a distinctive mark on the back side of her tale, a finger print. Over time, the whale watchers here and in Canada and the States and Europe have been able to collect photographs and complile geneologies of grandmothers, mothers, daughters, tracing them by their tale print.

If I were to draw up a list of the 7 wonders of the natural world, these whales would certainly be near the top. When I first saw one, right next to our boat which must have been about 40 feet long, the whale was just the same size, tears ran down my cheeks.

What a magnificent being. What an honor to share the planet with them.

Come. See them for yourselves.

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