Leviathan’s Revenge

Q:  What’s black and white and red all over?  A: Despite the corny old joke, in this day and age it’s certainly NOT a newspaper –they’re folding (for lack of readership) faster than a three-handed origami master.  The answer to this riddle is no joke:  it’s a whale … after being hit by an ocean-going ship.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has received reports of a higher-than-usual rate of whale strikes along the Eastern Seaboard for this time of year.  On May 4 a cruise ship heading for New York struck and killed a sei whale and dragged it into the Hudson River, discovering the collision had occurred only once it had reached port. A necropsy on the whale found it was killed by blunt force, confirming that it was killed by the ship.  Three days later, another dead sei whale was found entangled in the hull of a container ship that was docking near Philadelphia. A third  recent strike involved a fin whale.  Further north, an unusually plentiful food supply has recently been credited for a large increase in the number of humpback whales off Massachusetts, where large schools of a fish called the sea lance have turned the mouth of Massachusetts Bay into a “whale feeding ground.”

The usual rate of whale strikes by ships is about one every few weeks, NOAA said, compared with the three reported in just the past few weeks.  A National Marine Fisheries Service worldwide survey covering 1975 through 2002 found 292 records of confirmed or possible ship strikes of large whales. The agency issued a reminder to mariners of measures already in place to protect whales, including speed limits and distances.  “Nobody wants to hit a whale,” said Marjorie Mooney- Seus, a spokeswoman. “So we want people to have a greater awareness that they’re out there now.”


Cheeki Rafiki_20140523

Well, maybe the whales are hitting back.  Picking on something a bit closer to their own size.

A U.S. Navy warship located the overturned hull of a British yacht on Friday 1,000 miles off the coast of Massachusetts., a week after it went missing in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Rescue swimmers were able to examine the wreck of the Cheeki Rafiki, and reported a breach in the hull where the keel had broken off. The boat’s cabin was completely flooded and its windows shattered. Underwater images showed the yacht’s life raft still stowed in its storage space. There was no sign of its crew. Coast Guard officials said “extreme sea conditions” at the time of the distress call on May 15 put the crew’s estimated survival time at 20 hours.

So, on the one hand, the keelbolts could have been undersized, corroded or otherwise compromised by shoddy Antigua workman- ship.  Or a semi-submerged cargo container might have been floating just beneath the surface.  But on the other hand, in a world where cosmic justice might occasionally exist, perhaps a pod of angry whales decided to re-enact the final chapters of Moby Dick.



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