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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Life For A Humpback Whale

Air Date: Week of

A Humpback mother and her calf glide by off the New England coast. (Photo: Mark Seth Lender)

Mark Seth Lender heads out to sea, and in the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary he watches a humpback whales and her calf as they doze in the calm at the surface.


CURWOOD: It's Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood. Humpback whales are found in every ocean, and so is the roar of human activity. But there’s calm at the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary off Massachusetts, where writer Mark Seth Lender encountered a humpback and her calf.

The mother breaches. (Photo: Mark Seth Lender)

A Humpback Whale Seen Logging beside her Calf of the Year
Stellwagen Bank
© 2014 Mark Seth Lender
All Rights Reserved

LENDER: Wide of the planet Humpback Whale, goes, and dives, and rises up to feed rolling upon her fins, the fishes leaping amongst the black baleen in the cavern of her mouth. And when she roves, her flukes footprint the water like the heel of a giant ocean striding. And when she breaches, broad jumping high and long, the sea rumbles like kettle drums when she falls down! And when her water breaks and the life she bears is born, the tides rise higher on the distant shore.

The ragged sheets of rain weaving the spiny sea when the waves roar, the smooth cloth of the sea in calm, the ruffled blanket of the sea in steady wind, these are the weathers Whale knows, all these, and more.

The calf surfaces for a breath and dives again. (Photo: Mark Seth Lender)

In the grey of the deeps no color shines, sound rules over the eyes, the touch of currents is the only wind against your face, and water the only air; where cold inclines and warm subsides and water falls within water, there Humpback glides, and speaks, and listens for the voices of her kind through the unaccustomed, the invidious clamor.

She surfaces for silence and for sleep.

Effortlessly, the whales push the water past them with each stroke of their flukes. (Photo: Mark Seth Lender)

Whale, and the baby born to her in the winter of the year doze and drift on a soft bower of water. Their eyelids droop and close. They are so still; cradled in the calm before the storm. And when they draw, and blow, their breath becomes Whale Bows, violet, crimson, sintered green. It vanishes as quickly as it blooms. And when they sound, fathoms and fathoms below, the water like fresh blue paint covers over the place where they have been. And when they race, like a miller’s wheel, head then back then tail, great currents are moved upon their way. And when they look they see you.

The Whale – Feels! The Whale – Breathes.

The young whale, born tethered to his mother by the hawser of the cord, like all of us bound to the fate of the sea...

A mother Humpback whale rolls under the waves in the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. (Photo: Mark Seth Lender)

As the sea goes, so goes the Whale. As the Whale goes, so goes life, on earth.

CURWOOD: Writer Mark Seth Lender has pictures of the humpback and her calf at our website, LOE.org.

Mark Seth Lender has dedicated this essay to the memory of Stephen Kramer.



Provincetown's Dolphin Fleet

Mark Seth Lender’s site


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