Heathcote Williams, Whale Nation, London: Johathan Cape, 1988
From space, the planet is blue.
From space, the planet is the territory
Not of humans, but of the whale.
Blue seas cover seven-tenths of the earth's surface,
And are the domain of the largest brain ever created,
With a fifty-million-year-old smile.
Thor Heyerdahl, 'The Friendly Whale', from Whales, ed. Greg Gatenby
With a bump of the nose it could break your steering-oars, with a blow from the tail it could smash a fragile vessel to bits. But nothing of the sort happens, as long as you do not run a harpoon into the amiable visitor. The whale has little reason to deal lightly with the tiny human species, yet with all its tremendous body-strength it never touched our vessel nor even scratched loose a reed from the bundles. It made sure never to bump into us even in the pitch dark. At an arm's length it could suddenly come up, with the colossal head pointing straight for us, then it would bow head under and slide like a shadow right beneath our bundles to come up on our other side and resume the journey it had interrupted merely to pass by and say a friendly hello.
It is not everybody's fortune to have had bedside company with whales in their own free playground. But those of us who have, feel and urge to support the growing majority of mankind that demands that the tiny minority who threatens the remaining whale species with complete extinction for personal economic gains should be forced to leave the whales in peace.
David Pilbeam, Ascent of Man: Introduction to Human Evolution; 1972
Cetaceans evolved brains the size of ours thirty million years ago. Our brains have only been their present size for approximately 100,000 years.
John C. Lilly, Man and Dolphin, New York: Doubleday 1961
We, as relative newcomers, may be asking too much of ourselves to communicate meaningfully with minds as ancient as those of the whales and dolphins . . . the whales and dolphins may have more to teach us than we have to teach them.
Karl-Erik Fichtelius and Sverre Sjolander, Man's Place
· It is interesting to note . . . that especially in the days of sailing ships, whalers reported that sperm-whale herds almost always fled into the wind once they had been frightened. Presumably, this was because sailing ships could not pursue them at an equal speed, since they were forced to tack.
George Small, Ph.D., College of Staten Island, 'Why Man Needs The Whales'
Every human being has a biological need that must be constantly met - oxygen. And 70% of the oxygen added to the atmosphere each year comes from plankton in the sea. Serious damage to the world's ocean therefore could endanger the entire atmosphere of the earth. During the last two decades man has killed so many of the large whales that four species have been rendered commercially as well as almost biologically extinct. There are the blue whale, the fin whale, the humpback and the sei whale.
Their population has been reduced from a total of several million to just a few thousand. Every one of these vanished millions of whales used to consume several hundred tons of a large species of zooplankton a year. That plankton now is undergoing a classic population explosion for want of a predator. What will be the effect on the oxygen-producing smaller plankton of the world ocean? What will be the effect on the colour and reflectivity of the oceans?
What will be the effect on the average water temperature of the oceans, on its dissolved oxygen content and subsequently on the earth's atmosphere? No one knows. But climatologists know any significant change in ocean temperature can have profound effects on the earth's climates. By killing off the whales of the world man is playing Russian roulette with the earth's primary support system. Yes, we desperately need the whales to preserve the air we breathe.
Lyall Watson and Tom Ritchie, Whales of the World
A freedom of sexual expression and emancipation of sex from a purely seasonal procreative activity usually indicates a high level of behavioural organization and development. If this is so, the sheer quantity as well as the quality, sensitivity and complexity of sexual behaviour in cetaceans puts them very high up the evolutionary tree.
Karl-Erik Fichtelius and Sverre Sjolander, Man's Place
Not only do right whales have the longest whalebone plates (up to 13 feet), but their whalebone is also the strongest and most flexible. These qualities made this whalebone much in demand for use as an elastic element, particularly in corsetry . . And even if it was possible to take an entire ton of whalebone from a single whale, the market was apparently insatiable. Female vanity became the ruin of the whale, the same way that the fashion in plumes was once about to exterminate the ostrich, and that the popularity of fur coats today will end in the extinction of the ocelot, the leopard and other cats . . .
The Times, London: 30 October 1986
Pilot whales are routinely victims of the notorious Icelancic ritual slaughter known as the grind, which exploits the tendency of the pod to follow a leader (or pilot). In the grind the leader is diverted into shallow waters; the pod follows and all are then hacked to death with ceremonial knives and the meat distributed according to ancient formulae.
Keith Howell, 'Consciousness of Whales' Oceans, 55 (vol.10, no.4)
It would appear that we are more willing to consider the possibility of other intelligences on distant planets than we are on our own
Carl Sagan, The Cosmic Connection, New York: Doubleday, 1973
The brain size of whales is much larger than that of humans. Their cerebral cortexes are as convoluted. They are at least as social as humans. Anthropologists believe that the development of human intelligence has been critically dependent upon these three factors: brain volume, brain convolutions and social interactions among individuals. Here we find a class of animals where the three conditions leading to human intelligence may be exceeded, and in some cases greatly exceeded.
The Cetacea hold an important lesson for us. The lesson is not about whales and dolphins, but about ourselves. There is at least moderately convincing evidence that there is another class of intelligent beings on Earth beside ourselves. They have behaved benignly and in many cases affectionately toward us. We have systematically slaughtered them. Little reverence for life is evident in the whaling industry - underscoring a deep human failing . . .in warfare, man against man, it is common for each side to dehumanise the other so that there will be none of the natural misgivings that a human being has at slaughtering another.
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