Though a straight line appears to be the shortest distance between 2 points, life has a way of confounding geography. Often it is the dalliances and the detours that define us. There are no maps to guide our most important searches; we must rely on hope, chance, intuition and a willingness to be surprised.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

I can see whales from here, boyo.

(At last - a picture uploaded! Joy! And look at that pec!!)

Keeping this blog updated while on the move is often pretty challenging. Probably the most difficult time up to now was in South America where I never spent more than a couple of days in one place at any time. And that's why it was so surprising that internet availability and speed were so good.

But now at last I've hit a wall. Though Korea has the highest bandwidth of any country in the world, it hasn't spread to the rest of Asia. Uploading photos here in Nepal is near impossible, which is such a shame as I have such great photos to put on.

Even as I type, they've just switched off most of the computers and the lights in the internet cafe here, as i think they are worried about lightning striking the building!! (Weather is attrocious outside). It's difficult to see anything and the light from the monitor glowing in the darkness is attracting every weird insect in this part of Nepal!!

Whale-watching couldn't have a higher profile in Australia than it does at this exact point in time. The population of whales and interest in the animals has gone up to the point where it is a $100m+ industry for Aus and New Zealand. Even more crucially, the moratorium on whaling has come under increasing pressure in recent years from Iceland, Norway and Japan.

(I can't understand Japan's position on whaling. It killed 4,000 whalers last year, supposedly for 'scientific reasons'. Of course, there are no scientific reasons - it's not clear that any serious study is being done of whales (any research needs to be directed at how the animals migration and behaviour are affected by noise and other pollution in the oceans - not easy research to do with a corpse...). This is so transparently false as to be patronising and engenders great ill feeling among a huge number of people. Iceland and Norway are at least transparently stating a desire to hunt whales for food. But feel free to boycott all three!)

Pro-whaling (of which UK is prominent) and anti-whaling sides are both trying to recruit other nations to help with their voting total this year - Japan just persuaded Laos among others to join the voting plebiscite and vote for whaling. Laos is land-locked...

This meeting also happens to coincide with the start of the whale migration season. My last full-day in Australia was also the first day when Sydney's whale-watching operators offered a 'whales or your money back' guarantee. Luckily, I didn't get my money back.

I can't remember exactly how many whales we spotted - somewhere between ten and twenty. The first two we saw were just a kilometre or so from the mouth of Sydney harbour. These whales were all humpback whales and they migrate from Antartica to the NE coast of Oz and South Pacific islands at the start of the southern hemisphere winter.

This migration takes them past Sydney harbour. Whales have the largest migratory journey of any mammal (up to 5,000 miles!) but they seemed happy to take time out of their journey to interact with the watching boats.
(Curiousity on both sides as a whale approaches our boat)

We saw quite a range of whale 'activity' including blowing, diving, fluke-up dives and most-entertainingly 'pec waves' where the whale seems to wave its pectoral fins (think arms) at watching boats.

Latest news - of the two votes on whaling in the last week, neither went Japan's way. Great news for whales! But Japan are now threatening to leave the organisation and set up their own... Anyway, this is probably a bit partial - for the latest news:


Graeme said...


Having just returned from Japan, I must protest at the recommendation to boycott said country and Norway and Iceland (and Laos I suppose). Not going to a country is not going to stop SOME Japanese people to want to carry on whaling.
Not eating whale if you are presented with it in sushi is of course obvious (although trying to get an English translation of a Japanese menu is like trying to get a Japanese translation of an English menu in Britain.. so there is always a chance despite best intentions...)

NB Japan gave economically struggling Laos significant trade concessions for the vote. I wonder what concessions the SNP gave the Greens...

Calum said...

Thanks Graeme. Some balance was badly needed there. Glad to hear your own trip to Japan was good and I know what you mean about Kyoto being a bit 'difficult'. You should try Delhi!

Seriously though, Tokyo is one of the most exciting cities I've visited. Wouldn't want to encourage anyone to miss out on that.

I think the Greenpeace slogan ("I love Japan, but whaling breaks my heart") is perfect.