Sunday, February 11, 2007

The Cycle of Life

When we stopped at the little grocery store in Westport last night, the clerk told us about a dead beached whale nearby. A fin whale had washed ashore. She made sure we knew exactly where to find it.

As we drove into town to do the laundry, we located it and looked at it from the high bluff above. There was a steady stream of people walking out to get a closer look. We noted where the parking was at beach level and went on into town to do our mundane chores.

After we got all the laundry back to the RV and most of the clothes put away, it was time to head out for the sunset shots. Because the beach with the whale was also a likely candidate for "magical" sunset photos, that was where we headed. Even near sunset there was still a good sized group of people still coming to see the whale.

I headed down the beach and started doing my beach photos. Several people asked if I was there to photograph the whale. The honest answer was, "No, I'm here for the sunset." But I knew i did not have much time before the light went away, so after taking several sequences of shots, I kept working my way toward the whale, because I could see that the lighting was good.

There had been a lull, and I had the opportunity to take some photos without people around the whale.

I chose to take one with another photographer in order to have some perspective on the size of this whale.

I continued on with my sunset photos. But it was amazing, people were still coming. Families with children, people with dogs (yes, everyone and his dog was there . . . )

Some to take photos and some to get their picture made next to the whale.

There were even some young guys driving their truck down the beach toward the whale. (more on that . . . next blog).

When Henry was at the whale, people were even throwing rocks at it. This I don't understand, the poor whale is dead . . . I did not mind the guy who took some of the baleen. He told me he "thanked" the whale when he took it. Taking the baleen . . . no, I don't have a problem with that, the whale does not need it anymore. But throwing rocks . . . that seems disrespectful somehow.

I had a chance to talk to the other photographer. He mentioned a big hole on the other side (surf side) of the whale. After looking at it, I had to agree it was probably cause of death. A big almost shark sized hole on the top of the whale near his dorsal fin. The other photographer wondered if this whale had died heroically defending his pod from a shark attack.

While I was on the side examining the wound, I suddenly saw the eye.

There was something about the eye that got my attention. Wide open in death, it was a beautiful blue, complete with iris. Unseeing, and yet still a compelling image. I knew I had to photograph it. And with the tide beginning to come in, I took my shots quickly watching for sneaker waves.

With the next big wave coming in rapidly, I moved quickly out of its way. But in glancing back, the eye's location made me realize what a huge mouth this whale has.

While I am sad that this whale is dead, it is part of the cycle of life. The seagulls are finding a temporary food source. And we humans are getting a chance to see the wonder of whales up close and personal.

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