Wednesday, February 29, 2012

I Know Why The Humpback Sings

Not really. Not even the honchos at National Geographic (and they know everything, by the way), know.

"Humpback whales are known for their magical songs, which travel for great distances through the world's oceans. These sequences of moans, howls, cries, and other noises are quite complex and often continue for hours on end. Scientists are studying these sounds to decipher their meaning. It is most likely that humpbacks sing to communicate with others and to attract potential mates."  From NatGeo on humpback whales (well sheesh, NatGeo, doesn't everybody?)

 What? No good morning, just diving right in to humpback whales? Well, yesterday was an interesting day, starting with baking bread and table time, moving along to town and errand time, sliding right into a fare thee well to Pat as she leaves 25 years of Culebra to head to Arizona time, and ending with the Whale presentation, which I regret omitting the announcement for yesterday. My bad. The word got out though and there was a nice turn-out to listen to and ask questions of Mithriel MacKay and her interns (for info about the study that they are working on, go here).

Beside the fact that they are really extraordinary creatures - I don't think I've ever heard anyone say, 'Oh, I'm not a whale person' unless they were overturned at sea by one and even then, no one blames the whale - the reality is, not a whole lot is known about them. Why do they come to and through Culebra's waters? What do they eat around here? Are we ever going to get a photo of them having sex? That little factoid, I have to say, and not out of any purient interest, amazes me. I mean, what animal has not been captured having sex, on the plains, in the cities, deep in the forests, in the sky? Not too damn many. And here is this literal leviathan, as big or bigger than a bus, uncaught on pixels, film or anything else documentable. I love that fact! Not the bigger than a bus fact either, though that too is pretty awe inspiring.

Size relative to a bus:
from NatGeo link above
So the purpose of the presentation was/is to ask for observers. There are many whale sightings around here, and Mithriel would like people to take photos and shoot her an email ( with them, giving her some info about where they were, time of day, what they were doing (tail slapping, jumping, singing - yes, you can hear them sing without being in the water). Mithriel is doing this study here on her own dime, so you could help that way too; check out the wish list on the web site, maybe you have a hydrophone, lying around gathering dust. Ok, maybe you have an extra outdoor chair instead?

There have been humpback whale sightings all around Culebra lately, but the most I hear about are between Cayo Norte and Culebra, off of Zoni Beach - that little island to the back side of Culebra with no name on it; it's a privately owned island, which is probably why it is not identified.
The very exciting thing to me is that this hasn't ever been done here; it's new ground (or water) and in this day and age, that's a rare thing indeed. And it is going on right here, in little ol' Culebra! So check it out. I'm pretty sure Brad WILL be the one to get the first ever humpback whale sex photo, because he's just that kinda guy. In fact, I'll make a little wager right here and now. No, I don't bet money, but I'll bet some bread and hot sauce to the first clear documented photo sent to Mithriel. C'mon, it's good!

Of course, National Geographic would probably pay you
more than a few thousand dollars for such a photo,
just in case bread isn't your temptation. I'll throw in the bread anyway
(isn't it interesting that slang for money is 'bread' and 'dough'?)
Oh, and by the way? Note the air holes in the bread. All that stress for nothing. Eat that, William Alexander!

Right behind where I set up my table is a plant that the hummingbirds love. This one (or his twin(s)) hangs out there a lot, not seeming to mind the human activity going on around it, so bread people often get a good show (not, perhaps, as cool as a whale leaping up in the yard, but very beautiful and bright nonetheless).

If you know the name of this plant, I'd like to know too!

Slightly deranged looking hummer
 During the town part of the day, I stopped by Dinghy Dock to see how Neil is doing (tests, resting well) and Rob came in with some charter guests and a few good looking fish for dinner.

Two happy customers!

So goeth another Culebra day. Thanks, Mary Ann, for the wonderful opportunity to meet Mithriel and her interns and to get in on such a cool adventure! Thanks, Universe, for making Culebra such a wonderful place to live.

Have an oh what a wondrous world we live in Wednesday! Do something wicked good fun!


  1. Very interesting and broad topic-ed post
    I feel sad someone is leaving after 25 years on the island.

  2. Yeah, I'm not really a whale person. ;-)

    Best of luck to Pat in her new adventures!

  3. Yes, I'm just a random kinda gal! In this case, Mark, it's really not sad. She's had a lot of changes in the last few years (husband got ill, they moved off their boat, after many many years on it, he passed, etc etc) and she's ready move forward into something very new. It's the next adventure! Sometimes, it's just time to go.

  4. I think all the food slang for money is pretty fun; bring home the bacon, clams, out of beans or bean counter. I think its all from jazz culture and living through hard times in the 20's when bartering and sharing with food was more commonplace than printed money transactions. Fun post!

  5. Interesting theory, Phil, and it sounds valid to me!