Female North Atlantic right whale with calf, Wikipedia photo.
Female North Atlantic right whale with calf, Wikipedia photo.

I remember our chance meeting on choppy
Seas, glimpse of dark elegance, buoyant
Slow-gliding, purposely following ancestral
Whale paths, as your pod moved north
Along Atlantic coastal waters, lobtailing,
Slapping, making gradual dives before
Sounding near our fishing trawler, we
Brought our diesels to full-stop.

In silent watch, we realized something was
Amiss, trailing striped buoy cutting waves
Behind you, yellow poly line hundred meters
Long. When surfacing within narrow reach
Of our boat, we knew this chance encounter
Was by your planning, a misty spout of air,
Beckoned ancient pleas for help, one know-
Ing mammal to another.

We had tangles before, our prop fouled in
Lines like that, freed by several dives and
Quick knife work, we cut ourselves free,
Except with you, it seemed medicinal, your
Fin worn and cut, pains I viscerally felt,
Repetitive propelling motions, enduring
Seagoing agonies to keep pace with your
close-pressed calf and endangered pod.

At ten feet, sun illuminated ocean surface,
Within shallow-blue depths you waited,
Line entangled, right pectoral fin enwrapped,
Deep scared, yellow twisted line streaming
Past your massive fluke. I recall eye contact,
Bonds reunited though our evolutionary
Paths diverged eons past, kinship felt as
My hands glided along your noble flank.

In retrospect, I was more afraid than you,
Knife wielding, cutting edge safely sliding
Along phalangic grooves, slipping into
Knotted tangles, and with quick cuts, they
Floated free, rising thread of blood from
Deep-embedded turns, I wondered how
Similar our warm red blood may be, your
Adaptation to crushing murky depths.

Ancients recognized your dignity, old souls
Roaming pelagic realms, songs of melodic
Sea-strains, chorus of lyre and flute traveling
Vast distances, sentient tunes and whistles
Beyond our understanding. Months later,
I watched again for you, hoping you might
Recognize my boat, waypoint in my GPS
Marked as “Right Whale Encounter.”

For more on majestic and endangered North Atlantic right whales,
see link for Boston New England Aquarium: http://rightwhales.neaq.org/
Follow Right Whale Research on Twitter @rightwhalescoop

For mariners, see link for NDBC Data Buoy 44014, 64 nm east of Virginia Beach: http://www.ndbc.noaa.gov/station_page.php?station=44014

Social profiles