Whales Are Worms, Farmer Stewards Of Their Vast Ocean Pastures
Many people never give a second thought about the roles various ocean life have in the greater scheme of ocean ecology. Most imagine that the big life forms in the ocean, like whales, are simply “the top of the food chain,” somehow a higher form of life which has mastery over those ‘lower’ in their domain. They imagine they live only as predators to eat lesser organisms. That is enough isn’t it, it’s the law of the jungle.
Well this is patent nonsense. All life in the oceans share a common environment and each has a noble job they perform tirelessly for the benefit of all. The same applies to we terrans, save those who choose to selfishly act like they live by the “law of the jungle.”
Whales as it happens are quite simply one of the many gardeners of their oceans. They are like our earth worms, a big slow moving mouth and gut that takes in sea water like worms take in the soil, grind it, digests just a bit, composts the rest, and spreads it as vital fertilizer to sustain their gardens.
This video is of a newly discovered herd of 80 Omura’s Whales that until a year ago were thought to be nearly extinct. This herd lives in the waters near Madagascar in the Indian Ocean. They were found when an especially abundant plankton bloom resulted in vast schools of krill a favourite food of these rare great whales.
If you doubt that Whales Are Worms just watch these Omura’s as they sinuously worm their way through their ocean ‘soil.’
You can learn more about the researcher, Salvatore Cerchio, who made this wonderful discovery and video and even make a ‘gofundme’ contribution to fuel further vital work here…
The great naturalist Charles Darwin, after making a careful study of worms wrote this on their nature. We think he might have said the same of whales:
“…it may be doubted if there are any other animals which have played such an important part in the history of the world as these lowly organized creatures.”
As whales work to churn and recycle the plankton, krill, and small fish they enrich and provide for a healthy ocean ecosystem.
A Giant Blue Whale (ocean worm) feeding and “fertilizing” his garden.
Our centuries of hunting the great whales has not merely depleted their numbers it has destroyed their vital profession as gardeners and stewards of the ocean pastures.
With the disappearance of these gardeners, the gardens,the ocean pastures, have lost their fertility and are no longer able to grow the wide array of life these most complex of all gardens once grew.
While the whales in life serve their worm like role in tending to ocean gardens even in death they serve yet another role. Whale carcasses, known in the ocean science community, as whale falls become oasis’s of life for the deep ocean ecosystem. In the cold dark deep their bodies are slowly devoured and decayed by all manner of sea life, a bonanza of food and nutrients that can last for years. These whale falls while now rare must surely have provided an important and abundant oasis effect for the deep sea bed environment when whale numbers were vast.
So since it was up to us to unbalance the present nature of things we must make every effort to restore and replenish the true balance. As our efforts to restore the ocean gardens the whales will respond and take back up their roles of gardeners.
Take for starters the crisis of the Scotia Sea, that stretch of cold lonely Southern Ocean that lies between the tip of South American and the Antarctic continents. The garden there is especially depleted, where krill populations once flourished they have now been reduced to 20% of that former abundance.
This is not because we have overfished and caught the krill it is because we killed off most of the gardeners, the great whales. On top of that our CO2 has acidified those oceans and restricted and diminished the mineral dust which sustained fertility of the region.
Colleagues at the Alfred Wegner Institute in Bremerhaven have suggested that if the Scotia Sea could be returned to health, the great whales who not only tend that region but also use it as their nursery to raise their newborn would return to abundance in as little as 20 years. Our job, it seems, is to form a partnership with the whales for the sake of our common planet.
In our work last summer on the Haida ocean pasture as the plankton bloomed the whales came. The stayed with us. as side by side we worked together to replenish, restore, and tend to their ocean pasture.
On the very last day of our research voyage, as we lowered the last CTD and Niskin bottle cast into the abyss, a great sperm whale came to the boat. Over the course of the hour that it took for the last scientific sampling to be completed the crew not working on the CTD cast stood at the back of the boat in a rare bit of sunlight. the giant sperm whale swam back and forth within a few feet of the stern and kept making eye contact with each and everyone of us.
Just as the CTD came aboard the great whale put his head down and raised his great tail fluke into the air.Then he and we were gone. It was the perfect moment, the perfect ending, for a perfect summer working with the wild whales on a common and sacred duty.
I penned this piece aboard the Stad Amsterdam Beagle Voyage March 2010