Humbling Experience

front viewI had an opportunity today to see the skeleton of a north pacific right whale (Eubalaena japonica). The skeleton is on display at the Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology.

At 17.1 metres in length, the skeleton is enormous. It's from a 67.2-tonne male that was caught in 1961 near Kodiak Island, Alaska as part of the International Whaling Commission's activities. Whether I was standing beside the skeleton, in front of it, underneath it...anywhere...the sheer bulk was overwhelming and awe-inspiring. It's difficult to convey just how humbling the experience was.

Of course, the sad part of the experience is knowing that northern pacific right whales are in a bad way. Depending on which estimates you refer to, there are an estimated 300 to 500 of these animals alive today...not exactly a booming population. In fact, the whales are listed as Endangered by the IUCN.

I've spent dozens, if not hundreds, of hours with humpback whales in the water, and I've had a few awesome encounters with sperm whales too. But I've never seen a right whale in the water, and somehow, I had imagined that right whales would be smaller, which no doubt contributed to my open-mouthed, dumbstruck reaction when I saw the display.

Hopefully, I'll have a chance to be dumbstruck and humbled by the sight of a living right whale in the water one day.

side view