I Told You They Weren’t Cuddly!

For many years people have been oohing and ahhing at the sight of whales migrating up and down the coast, there is even a whale watching industry and legislation regulating how close you are allowed to get to the whale. I’m sure they have similar laws in South Africa but one of the whales there either hadn’t read the law or decided to become an outlaw whale.

This whale dived under a yacht and came up, breached and fell onto the yacht’s deck. The animal dismasted the boat and scared the couple on board who were lucky to be able to make it back to shore. No doubt they will be blubbering about this escape for years to come. (Sorry, couldn’t resist the pun)

I remember reading a book some years ago about a family that were sunk by killer whales off the Galapagos Islands and spent 38 days in their liferaft and dinghy before being rescued. I have also read of adolescent male dolphins sexually assaulting humans in otherwise friendly interactions between us mammals. Yet people insist whales are harmless creatures and all so wonderful and how horrible is it that the Japanese, Norwegians and Icelanders eat them?

The thing is, whales are wild creatures and very large. Not only that the sea is their element and while attacks or even perhaps misunderstood interactions are rare, they do happen and they can be lethal. Part of the problem lies with the media, as usual. The plethora of excellent wildlife documentaries on cable tv give many a false sense of safety, such as that bottle top who tried to sit on the 5m crocodile last week.

Most people forget that the makers of these documentaries have years of experience as well as local guides to keep them safe. Even then they usually use telephoto lenses and keep a safe distance. Those that get close enough to touch really do know what they are doing. Of course, the animal might not be as experienced in dealing with humans and their reactions might be somewhat unpredictable. With an animal weighing thousands of kilograms and you in a floating Tupperware container, ‘unpredictable’ takes on new menace.

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