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

Bottlenose Whales in the Arctic

Air Date: Week of

A bottlenose whale peeks out. (Photo: © Mark Seth Lender)

Living on Earth’s Explorer-in-Residence Mark Seth Lender describes a pod of bottlenose whales as they swim through Hudson Strait above the Arctic Circle, and his impulse to join them.


CURWOOD: Life on earth likely began in the primordial soup of the ancient ocean. And humans still carry that original home in our bodies. The salinity in the plasma of our blood is remarkably similar to that of the ocean for example. And in a way, Living on Earth’s Explorer in Residence, Mark Seth Lender says he longs to return.

A Pod of Bottlenose Whales
Hudson Strait
© 2020 Mark Seth Lender
All Rights Reserved

From the far and the wide, at the fall and the waves’ rise a crescent moon of dorsal fin…

An archipelago of long forms…

Floating islands turning, wide...

The flash of pallid sun in the damp of Arctic Circle light…

Like magic!

They come:

Bottlenose whales in alongside.

One of the whale’s flukes breaches above the water. (Photo: © Mark Seth Lender)

Some pass under the keel. And finding none like us, return.

They raise themselves as much as they can to make their deep eyes shallow; to see as much as they can. As long as they can. As we drift. Engines cut. A listing hulk. And they follow looking up and up.

Their desire they cannot escape is my desire I cannot escape, to look, into the eyes, of the Other! This is how we speak, each to the Other. I do not want to leave here.

If I could I would abandon ship, stand on the rail and plunge…

If only my blood would not freeze...

If only I could hold my breath and dive, like them...

If only to quench my thirst I could drink brine....

We came from the sea and are still of it, our beating hearts the rocking of the tide, brought inside, so we could walk away. Having walked, there is no turning back.

An iceberg in the Davis Strait, just outside the Hudson Strait. (Photo: © Mark Seth Lender)

Flank speed into the starless dark we rove, the helmsman clinging to the wheel, the wavecrests snapping at our heels. Ice scrapes its nails along the hull, its prying fingers at the watertight doors.

And I am different than I was, Before.

CURWOOD: That’s Living on Earth’s Explorer in Residence, Mark Seth Lender.



Thanks to Adventure Canada

Mark Seth Lender's website

Find the field note for this essay here


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