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UNDERNEWS

Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of ten of America's presidencies and who has edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review, which has been on the web since 1995, is now published from Freeport, Maine. We get over 5 million article visits a year. See prorev.com for full contents of our site

February 24, 2010

REFLECTIONS ON A BEACHED WHALE

PHILIP HOARE, OBSERVER, UK - A fin whale has beached on the coast of Cornwall. But where has the 56ft beast come from? And what will happen if it explodes?

Of all the deputations from the deep, a beached whale is the most ­astounding. Not just ­because of its size, but also because of the ­terrors it holds for the humans who may confront it. A stranded whale was once regarded as an ill omen; a right whale that stranded in the Thames in 1658 was widely seen as an augury of the death of Oliver Cromwell. Even now, the arrival this week of a 100-ton, 56ft fin whale on Portowan Beach in Cornwall is a ­remarkable phenomenon – not least because Balaenoptera physalus is second only to the blue whale in size, reaching up to 85ft in length.

I've seen these animals many times off Provincetown, Cape Cod: to have one swim under the boat is a deeply strange feeling. Diving below, the creature never seems to end, ­ until it emerges at the other side with an explosive whoosh from its twin blowholes. Watching its sleek dorsal fin scythe through the water, I'm always reminded that fin whales are the fastest of all great whales, dubbed the greyhounds of the sea and able to swim at 24 knots an hour.


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