|A breaching humpback whale|
My sister, Nina, knows how much I love animals. She's quite an animal lover herself, having given a home to assorted pets over the years, including lovebirds and a chinchilla. This morning she sent me a link to a YouTube video called Saving Valentina. You've got to watch this video. Just click on the title and, if you can, expand the video to full screen on your computer.
When members of the Great Whale Conservancy came across a young humpback whale entangled in a fishing net, thankfully they had a video camera on board their small craft and the desire to document their rescue attempt. The resulting video captures one of those rare encounters between man and the giant mammal which truly suggests that understanding can transcend species boundaries even in the absence of a common language.
It's always tempting to anthropomorphize, but when you watch the video, you may find yourself agreeing with me that the distressed whale seems to understand quickly that the people are trying to help her. And by the time you reach the thrilling end of the video, you may share my impression that the whale is showing her joy at being rescued and thanking her rescuers for saving her life.
My speculations even extend a bit further. I wonder whether that young whale later told other whales about her rescue. We know humpbacks are highly intelligent. A few months ago, I came across a video of their amazing synchronized hunting technique (click on the link to see it).
Humpback whales may not have vocal chords, but they do produce varied and complex "songs" which act as a kind of language. Scientists have studied humpback whale songs and concluded that they use hierarchical structure in their language, the only other creatures known to do that besides humans. Male humpback whales produce songs that last anywhere from six to thirty minutes. A lot could be said in that amount of time! A link to what humpback whale song sounds like is here.
While females are capable of making sounds, only the males produce highly structured songs filled with distinctive melodies and themes. So, if Valentina really is a female, as her name implies, she may not have said much of anything when she encountered other whales. Still, it's tempting to imagine that she told them people can sometimes be trusted.
Whales, as well as their dolphin cousins, are known to approach boats and swim alongside them. They must have figured out that not all human beings are hunting them. At least, I like to think so. I feel enriched by viewing a video like the one about Valentina. So, Nina, please keep them coming. And all other uplifting animal stories and videos are welcome!
Photograph courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Click on the photo to enlarge it.